Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ

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Scott Wolf

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Because we’re a predictable species with lame tendencies, we tend to compartmentalize things. It’s an easy method for our relatively small attention spans. Nirvana, for example, was a band with 100 influences from all over to map. But, to most of us, they were “alternative.” New York City is a metropolis featuring millions of people from millions of places. Yet, when Ted Cruz spoke of my former home, he grouped the collective value system—as if all five boroughs contain a single mind.

We do this stuff with sports, with politics, with music. And, perhaps more than anything, with actors.

Once a performer stars in something long enough, that becomes both his calling card and his identity. Christopher Reeve was Superman until the day he died. Clint Eastwood is forever Dirty Harry. Phylicia Rashad is always Clair Huxtable.

And Scott Wolf remains Bailey Salinger from “Party of Five.”

Not that Scott’s complaining. He’s not. But the man’s resume is detailed, riveting, impressive. He’s done tons of film; tons of TV; currently stars in the NBC drama, “The Night Shift.” He also loves the New York Giants, Utah, his three kids and the legend of Yinka Dare (Scott is a George Washington grad).

One can follow Scott on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Scott Wolf, you are the 250th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So I moved to L.A. and I go to Soho House. Because I wrote a book about the Lakers and someone’s interested in buying the movie rights. And I go and I feel like it’s a lot of guys my age, mid-40s, and a lot of blonde women in their mid-20s. And the guy I’m with, who I won’t name, starts showing me pictures of all the women he’s had sex with. Like, naked photos.

SCOTT WOLF: Naked photos?

J.P.: Yes, naked photos. And he’s scanning through them on his phone. “I had her, her, her.” And he’s bragging. It’s a real scene, and the guy is just trying to show off. And I wonder—is that what the scene is? If you’re me, someone unaccustomed to this, there’s a “scene.” Is that it, or a total misrepresentation?

S.W.: Um … it is a good question. And it’s probably something a lot of people wonder about. Because you see these “scenes” or, like, L.A. life depicted in movies, shows. I think a lot of people wonder if what they’re seeing is accurate, or whether it’s fictionalized.

I have to preface my answer by saying it’s been a long time. I’m married with three kids, so I’m scene-lite. But I guess my answer would be that is one of several scenes in L.A. The one I was probably most immersed in was the young 20-something scene when I first got to town. Funny enough, there was like a mainstream scene back then. There was no Soho House, but there a couple of places on Sunset Blvd. that were … quintessential L.A. scene, mainstream clubs. Not you’re 21 and you just showed up from New Jersey and you wanna hang out and have a good time with a bunch of other 21-year olds from Philly and Atlanta who want to have a good time. These were, like—one was called The Roxbury, which was given its moment of fame in “Night at the Roxbury.” And then there was a place called Bar One. When I first got to L.A. that was the establishment scene. You couldn’t get in. There were some nights I’d go … I had the disadvantage of being 21 but looking 13. So there always have been these established scenes. The Soho House was kind of developed as a scene for people … not early-20-somethines, but people who were … I have tons of friends who go to Soho House, and they’re married with kids and they’re not there showing naked pictures. They’re just there socializing and having work meetings. So in a way all the people a generation ago who were on line waiting to get in at Bar One and the Roxbury and who have done pretty well for themselves have created Soho House.

It’s a cool spot. Beautiful spot. Sick 270-degree views of the city. Beautiful bar, the food’s pretty good. I’ve been there with big groups of people for fun dinners. And it is the kind of place where you’ll always see fun people you recognize and know. So that place is one of the few that has created a scene unto itself.

But what’s funny about the whole naked picture thing is—I feel like I (laughs) … I can say we, but I’ll speak for myself. It’s a different world out there. I’ve had a couple of friends who I’ve known for 20 years … came up with as actors, two of whom got divorced recently. And I worked with both of them on different projects. And the same thing happened—they whipped out their phone, and they said, “You can’t believe what’s going on out there right now.” In particular, I think, with Tinder and these type of things. Not to date myself too much, but what I was heavy in the dating scene or the club scene in L.A., if you wanted to give someone a naked picture of yourself, you basically snapped it, brought it to a little booth at the pharmacy and then brought it to the person. So obviously that process has grown so real time and easy. You can just beam this stuff around. This one particular guy was telling me about it. And I said, “Well, show me something.” And he’s like, “No, you don’t wanna.” I said, “I do! I’ve been married 11 years, I have three little kids. You don’t know how desperately I wanna see.” (Laughs). He proceeded to show me some stuff and I have to say … “Yeah, man.”

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J.P.: To be 21 again …

S.W.: But that’s the thing. This guy’s 45. But single. Anyway, I digress with all capital letters. There was always a scene. I have to say, there was a fun scene I fell into when I was starting to work more. It wasn’t necessary a super-exclusive, Roxbury hard-to-get-into thing. But it was just this kind of swirl of people. There were a couple of club promoters at the time who had spots that were really fun to go to, and we would all migrate together to these places. There were musicians, bands, friends who were actors. I look back at it fondly, because it wasn’t a bullshitty check-out-what-I-can-get-into thing. Or how powerful or sexy or look who I’m banging. It was a legit socializing movement in L.A. I did have a moment toward the end of it. I had met a girl at one of these clubs, and it was toward the end of the night, and she seemed really cool, and I said, “Hey, we should get together.” And she said, “That would be great.” And lights are on and they’re shoving people out and I said, “You wanna give me your number?” And she said, “Well, I’ll see you next week. I hear you’re here every Wednesday.” And I was like, ugh. I’m one of those guys. And I literally never stepped foot in that place again. I refused to be that guy.

So it’s been so long since I’ve been a card-holding member of the social scene in L.A. But I do know your story is indicative of a couple of things. Every place, especially L.A., likes to have its spots. It’s exclusive spots the people who are in can feel some sense of pride and proprietary satisfaction of “I’m one of the people allowed in this place.” And as a rule, look it’s not unique to L.A. Our entire society is somewhat affected by how well you’re doing and what are you driving. But those questions rule the day in Los Angeles much more than other places in the country. And one of the guys I’m working with here on the show—he literally told the story of being in a club in L.A. the other night, and one of the first three questions is, “What car do you brag?”

J.P.: I drive a 2010 Prius. Can I get your number?

S.W.: I gotta go.

J.P.: So I guess it’s just L.A. is something different …

S.W.: That town is just pure aspiration. It is loaded from the bottom up with people who are aspiring to do one thing or the other. Whether it’s act, play music, stand-up comedy … something. That overwhelming aspirational energy puts a lot of people in position where they feel they can’t waste an opportunity to lurch themselves forward some way. To be honest, that’s why I left L.A. when I did. After the last year of the first series I did, “Party of Five,” I was going out into the scene. There’s where I was trying to meet a person to spend my life with. It’s not to say that none of the women I was meeting were that type of person. It’s just that that’s not where their minds were.

J.P.: Do you like fame? Is fame good or fame awful?

S.W.: Um, I think if you’re not looking for the wrong things from fame, it’s awesome. If you’re needing fame or wanting it to define who you are or give you a sense of value in the world, you’re screwed. But the way I’ve always looked at it is, my priority has always been to follow what I love. When I discovered acting I discovered that I loved it and that it felt very important to me. It’s easy to see the surface level of the acting career—a movie or TV show or being on Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t know if I’d use the words “saved me,” because I wasn’t in danger of dying. But this work plugged me in as a human being. I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, so I was a very shut down person emotionally. Extremely so. And when I was a kid I had these watershed experiences. Literally watershed. Because most of them involved watching a performance that made me cry and feeling alive and connected to myself. And I felt like a full human being in those moments way more than I ever did in my day-to-day life.

J.P.: What would be an example?

S.W.: Well, there are very specific examples I can give you. The first one I remember—the very first show I was allowed to watch as a kid … I had an older brother who’s one of my best friends in the world now. But if I had a knife and his back was to me when we were 12 and 10, I’d be in prison right now. He was a very, let’s say, successful older brother. And so it was funny. When my bedtime came I always knew he and my mom would watch these different types of shows that were seemingly cool and I would hear him talk to her about a show he hadn’t been allowed to watch. And I was always forced to go to bed before those shows. At the time my bedtime was 10. I was 11, maybe 12, so what would wind up happening was I would take a corner seat in the couch in our family room and I would just get real still and quiet and hope that they forgot about me. And that I’d be allowed to watch the 10 o’clock show. Invariably my brother would say, “Scott’s still here!” and I’d have to go upstairs. Then it came time for me to have a later bedtime, and the biggest thing it meant to me was I’m gonna get to watch a show that starts at 10, and something about those shows is different. And the first one I watched was St. Elsewhere, this great old hospital show. To me, the epiphany of that was David Morse, who was among an incredible group of actors. I zoomed in on him. He’s still, in my opinion, one of the best actors working. But there was a particular story on St. Elsewhere, where David Morse’s wife was giving birth to their first child. She’s admitted to the hospital, they begin the process, and it’s a very exciting, happy thing. And then things start to go bad. I’ve talked about this episode for years—as I recall about it, there were complications, and they weren’t gonna be able to save both mother and child. And what I can’t remember exactly is if he was given the choice, and they told him what they needed to do. I think they told him they had a very good chance of saving the baby and a small chance of saving the wife. And his wife dies, and the baby survives. This all happens halfway through the episode, and it’s a devastating thing. And he’s obviously destroyed by this thing, but throughout the remainder of the episode … for him, this little newborn baby who he doesn’t know has basically taken his wife away from him. So he doesn’t go see the baby. He just can’t. He’s somehow managing to hold himself together. And all the while he hasn’t meant the baby, and has this anger and upset. And so the very last shot of the episode—it’s night, everyone has gone home, the camera is right behind the incubator. And the baby is in there. And he’s all alone in there in this big dark nursery. And it’s funny, I cannot talk about this scene without choking up. It’s crazy. This is the power of what this work can be. Thirty years later. You see something move in the background, and it’s him—David Morse, the baby’s father. And without a word spoken, he walks in, walks across the room, picks up the baby and holds him. And that’s the end of the episode. And I was a fucking puddle on this couch. And it was such a crazy moment, because I didn’t cry ever. Out of self defense I became a person who wasn’t vulnerable. And I wasn’t 6—I knew it was acting. But it still did this to me, and I’m more emotional that I’ve ever been. And I was human and alive and more emotional than I was supposed to feel.

Double Dragon publicity shot.

Double Dragon publicity shot.

J.P.: That’s amazing.

S.W.: So acting has real meaning to me. There’s the value it held in terms of the exploration of human emotional and human experience and what that can mean in terms of performing it for other people. And the second thing I felt revealed itself to me early in my studies … I was someone who could get bored easy. And this was something where I was like, “I could be doing this for the rest of my life and still be figuring it out.” And that, to me, just blew me open. I was like, “I’m in.” It felt fun, important in its own way and endless. That had me.

J.P.: I wonder if David Morse remembers that episode …

S.W.: It’s funny—I’ve never worked with him, I’ve never met him. But I was at the Erewhon Market in L.A. And in that city you see everyone everywhere. But he was the one person who stopped me in my tracks. And I was like, “Shit, do I go?” He was leaving. It wasn’t like he was looking at lima beans and I could slide up next to him. He was on his way out with all his bags. It was just a quick moment. I didn’t say anything. I figured I’d have another chance.

J.P.: Wow. You said nothing?

S.W.: I didn’t. It would have been running him down with his stuff. If the access were there more, maybe. But I feel like at some point I’ll tell him. My wife is pretty great at saying the thing you might not say to somebody. It’s easier not to say, but when you say it it can make an actual difference in a human life. It’s a remarkable thing. I’ve seen her do it and it’s amazing.

J.P.: Every now and then someone will be like, “Hey, I really liked your book.” And even though I suppose I might play it off a little, it’s thrilling. But I wonder—you’re Scott Wolf, you’re walking through Whole Foods and someone says, “I loved you on [so and so].” Do you still get a charge out of that? Or are you more like, “Um, who cares”?

S.W.: Really good question. It’s tricky. Everybody’s different. For me, I would start by saying it never sucks to hear that. It’s never a bad thing to have someone tell you they loved you. There’s still always a charge of, “That’s awesome! I don’t know that person.” I’m walking down an airport terminal, and some show or movie meant enough to that guy or that girl to say something. That’s always been really cool to me.

It’s funny, because this whole thing came full circle to me two days ago. I was thinking about work and my show now and different characters—and I realized, not that I’m not hungry for more and don’t plan on doing other things, but right out of the gates—my first major thing, “Party of Five,” really provided for a lot of people the very thing that got me into the work in the first place. You know, this thing about just touching people and giving people a genuine emotional reaction to stuff they’re watching. And at best, it’s not like you had to have lost your parents in a car accident to benefit from the emotional values of that show. You could turn around and look at your own life and, even subconsciously, be applying stuff that you’ve been put in a position to think about. Because of a show like that.

I digress. There are two facets. The psychological part that is tricky is that, for some reason, I don’t know why this is … it’s like every compliment weighs an ounce, and every insult weighs a ton. And I guess I haven’t thought enough about our psychological makeup to figure out what we do that to ourselves. But it’s like, if you read reviews of a play you did, you can read 15 that are just glowing and praise your performance, but it’s the one person who says you’re a wooden dunce—for some reason that’s the one that pings around your head all month. And it doesn’t deserve to. But for some reason it does.

It’s very easy to take the compliment and go, “Yeah, thanks” and brush it off. We don’t want to be impacted by those things. But we will make too much of a negative thing. At the end of the day I absolutely love the scope of the work that I’m lucky enough to do. I love performing characters. But if I did it in my basement, and nobody saw it, it wouldn’t be as fun. That I get to hopefully touch a bunch of different people is amazing.

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J.P.: I saw a YouTube clip of you and your co-star on a British talk show talking up “Night Shift,” and the intro was something along the lines of, “We all fell in love with him as Bailey on ‘Party of Five’ and I feel like you’ve probably heard a sentence like that no less than 865,000 times. Are you ever like, “Flippin’ hell, that was, like, 20 years ago Can someone update my resume?” Or are you like, “Great!”?

S.W.: I mean … well, look, I guess the first thing I would say is it rarely gives me a negative feeling. I guess just recently, within the last year or two, there have been moments. Like I’m about to MC a gala for this really awesome local organization in Park City this weekend. And they were digging around, trying to figure out what would be a fun intro. And I said, ”I’m fine with anything.” And the first thing they said was, “Well, maybe we’ll play the ‘Party of Five’ song.” I have to say, it was one of the few moments where I was like, “Well …” My wife in particular, I told her and she was like, “No, no, no. Enough. We have to move on.” But for me, I’m very, very, very, very fortunate that the thing that has followed me around throughout my career is something I still adore and appreciate all these years later. And have no bad feelings about. I mean, I could be being followed around by “Double Dragon,” the video game movie I did. Which was snubbed at the Oscar’s.

J.P.: You played Billy Lee in “Double Dragon.”

S.W.: (Laughs) I sure did. There could be some sort of negative association with a show or role that follows me around. Which would just be hell on earth. This isn’t that. It is crazy that after all these years there is something really indelible about that show and that character that has stayed with me. Sort of like the scene I’m talking about in. St. Elsewhere. My part on “Party of Five” became that for a lot of people—which is really cool. That’s the upside. The downside is I have a desire to be a part of telling stories and playing characters that are equally indelible as I move forward. And even though I’ve been part of some really fun shows, and I’ve thankfully been able to work since then, in fairness none of the projects I’ve done have really had that level of impact on an audience. So that one still winds up jumping out front. I don’t have any bad feelings about that. I’m really proud of that show. But it makes me want to find the next one of those in my life.

J.P.: It seems like you live in a strange world. I heard an interview with Edie Falco, where she was talking about “The Sopranos” about six years after the show ended, and she said, “I literally haven’t spoken one time to the kid who played my son.” And how weird that is. I know the clichéd, “It’ll always be a family,” but isn’t it weird from 1994-2000 you work with these people nonstop, they’re known as your family members—then life moves on. Isn’t that a weird phenomenon?

S.W.: It is—extremely. Yes. It is really weird. And if you’re successful in this business you do it dozens of times throughout your life. You become fast friends/family with these people. And it’s real. That’s not to say there aren’t examples of people who are miserable with each other but say, “We’re a family” for the camera. Most of the experiences I’ve ever had—almost every one—you just go into this kind of tent together. Where you’re building this thing and there’s this common goal and, especially with “Party of Five,” and the fact we were playing young, orphan siblings. If you’re ever gonna get one where it just hurls you toward being affectionate toward each other, that’s it. And yeah, you spend an inordinate amount of time together. An hour-long TV series, especially. The half-hour sitcom thing is different, because the hours are lighter. But when you do an hour-long drama you spend more time with classmates than friends, family, anyone outside the show. Just by nature of the hours you work and the intensity and the common sense of, “We’re all better off if we’re in this thing together.” Not to compare the two, because one is life and death and the other is entertainment, but it’s a military mindset. In the sense of, “I don’t wanna be the weak link here” and we’re all pulling for each other. There becomes real bonding that I think is most of the time very special. So then when production ends, after these people have truly been your brothers and sisters, it’s like someone just yanks the tent out from over your heads. And you’re just standing there, and all of a sudden it’s revealed, “Oh, yeah, we’re not actually brothers and sisters. We were just actors doing this thing.” But you sort of buy into a mindset that is necessary to make something great. And it’s interesting how once that thing gets lifted off of you and you move forward with life—it’s remarkable how despite the intensity and genuine affection and ties you have to these people, they just don’t mean the same once you move on to the next thing. It’s a unique thing.

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J.P.: I didn’t realize this until last night, but you were 25 when you played Bailey, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, playing your girlfriend, was only 16. Is that weird? I don’t mean in the real-world sense. I mean, is it weird being 25, your girlfriend is 16, you have scenes with her, etc …

S.W.: Well, look, so I’ve always looked very young. The upside is I never would have been able to play Bailey on “Party of Five” if I looked my age, because I was 24 at the time I was cast. And I was 25 when they cast Jennifer Love Hewitt to play my love interest on the show. And she was legit 16. Which I didn’t think too much about. At the time I … I just looked so young, I was playing this young kid. I was in it. I was in the tent, right? I wasn’t thinking too much about the details. But then we started to have intimate scenes, where they’d be kissing. And in the beginning it occurred to me it was illegal. It never came off as creepy to me, just because, I don’t know … it never felt … I wasn’t looking at it that way. It sounds weird. But I was in the tent. I was Bailey. It wasn’t like I was dating her in my regular life. We were acting. But if you really parsed it out, I was a 25-year-old guy kissing a 16-year-old girl. Which I think in every state is illegal. Am I right?

J.P.: I think you need parental permission. Jerry Lee Lewis once married a 13-year-old girl

S.W.: Oh! Right. Her mom was on set all the time. And, yeah, they signed off. But I do remember there were times where I looked around and was like, “We’re good? I’m not gonna get carted off for this scene?”

J.P.: My daughter has a friend who’s 12, and she recently left school to be home schooled to focus on acting. When you hear that sort of thing, is it “Awesome!” or “No!”

S.W.: The first thing I think is it’s a case-by-case thing. I think there are versions of that that probably work great and that the parents have a clear vision for what they want for their kids, and they’re good at home schooling. Like everything, there’s best and worst versions. The worst versions of that are scary. I mean, the odds of becoming a successful … anything is difficult. But especially in the entertainment business. It’s very tricky. When I hear of anyone that young putting all their eggs in that basket, it’s a little scary sounding. But as long as the person is … the home schooling, if that’s happening in earnest and the kid is rightly proceeding with an education … there are ways it can work. You listen to Leonardo DiCaprio—his parents took him to auditions after school. Somehow the idea of pulling a kid out of regular kid life for the microscopic chance they might be successful as an actor—I wouldn’t do it. Knowing what I know, having worked with a lot of kids … Lacey Chabert, who’s one of my favorite human beings and my little sister on “Party of Five,” she was 10 or 11 when we started, and she was a person whose career … she was on Broadway in Les Mis and was now doing a TV series—that’s a different scenario. It’s, “Are we going to shift this kid’s life to accommodate the success she already is?” That’s a different calculus. That I’m all for. If one of my kids had the opportunity to do something unique with their life, but it meant shifting schooling in some way, we’d 100 percent be game for that. But somehow the idea of saying we’re going to pull our kid out of the normal kid life just to create the opportunity for something great to happen … if you were my friend asking whether you should do that, I’d be leaning toward no. Kids only get one shot at childhood.

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J.P.: What do you do if you’re in something and you know it’s not good? You know it sucks, but you have this contract where you have to promote it. So what do you do?

S.W.: Well, thankfully I’ve had very few of those experiences. It is funny because I think a lot of people, including myself working in this industry, you’ll see a movie and it will suck so badly that you’ll think, “How did they not realize they were doing something terrible?” It’s funny, this tent analogy I go back to. People go into this tent and they drink the Kool Aid. And it’s very difficult sometimes to have real objectivity whether something is good or not. That said, I’ve had a couple of experiences—one in particular on a movie and one in particular on a TV pilot, where it became evident we were not going to be reinventing the medium with what we were up to. That there were problems, creatively and otherwise.

What I have to say is, for me, my own personal experience—I’m probably in a weird way more proud of those experiences than of anything else I’ve done. What I learned about myself in those moments was I wasn’t willing to sit back and accept the problems or accept the limitations of the thing. And in any way I had access, or anything I could influence, I was fighting my ass off to try and make it better. And in one instance, with the movie, it worked. And I wound up actually being able to … it was a small enough project where I had enough influence where I felt I kind of dragged it upward. And something that could have fallen off a cliff and been embarrassing turned out to be something I’m proud of.

J.P.: This wouldn’t be a film called “Double Dragon,” would it?

S.W.: It would not. (Laughs). Interestingly enough, it’s a movie … and I don’t want to disparage anything about it, but there were issues with it early on. But it’s a movie called, “Meet My Valentine,” on Netflix now. It’s a tiny independent movie that some Ion TV paid for it and aired it on their channel, but it’s actually getting looks at Netflix. That was one where it was a great script and I really loved the director and the writer and the guys I worked with it on. But it had the potential to fall backward quickly for various reasons. Some were production issues—like, there was zero money and zero time. So what can happen with that is it’s not necessarily we’re making something shitty. It’s just we’ve got some logistic and production things that are potentially slapping us backward creatively and not giving anyone a chance to be great. More than ever, I fought my ass off. I believed in it; in the story we were telling and the potential of the thing. I wasn’t willing to let this turn into an embarrassment.

J.P.: So are you proud of it?

S.W.: I am. It’s not a perfect movie, it’s not a perfect thing. But nothing is. And there’s great value and emotion in it. And I’ve gotten tons of feedback from people who watched it. It’s a sad movie; bittersweet. And it’s affecting people. Which gets back to why I jumped into this business. Day one of production was chaotic and sort of worst fears of what the thing could devolve into. I never fought harder, and with good partnership. The director and writer were great.

I also once did a TV pilot for some guys, and from the first day it was troubled. It was a comedy having a hard time being funny. As an actor, that’s the worst. A bad drama you can stay afloat in. But a bad comedy will just bury you. There’s no hiding in a bad comedy. And it was a sitcom that wasn’t having an easy time being funny and they were constantly re-writing. I wouldn’t have even known how to make it better. So we all did the best we could. They were re-writing the script daily, our characters kept on changing. It was the most chaotic experience I had as an actor.

Very early on, when I was doing “Party of Five,” I had a friend who got on the show, “Models, Inc.” Remember that show? And so he took a beating. He got it before he was ready. He wasn’t prepared to jump into episodic television. And the writing on the show was less than perfect, and on a show that got ridiculed for bad acting he was singled out as maybe the worst among them. And it wasn’t really fair, but I just remember watching that. And he would still have to go do press for it. And I remember feeling lucky I didn’t have to go out and say great things about something I’m embarrassed about. And 25 years later, I can say I’ve never had to do that, and I know how lucky I am.

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• Four all-time favorite New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor, Eli Manning, Phil Simms, Joe Morris.

• When you were on “Party of Five,” my friend Adrienne—big fan of the show—walked past you on the street once and said, “Hi, Scott!” then later felt dumb because she didn’t actually know you. Should she have felt dumb?: No. It happens all the time. The clichéd one is actually the most frequent one, which is, “Did we go to school together?” My favorite is when they go, “Are you Scott Wolf?” and you go, “Yeah.” And they go, “No, you’re not.” And you go, “OK, I’m not.”

• Do people say, “Hi Bailey?”: Yes. But I think they’re goofing around.

I have a friend who was on The Real World. Your wife was on The Real World. Can you make fun of her for this?: Um, yes. Within reason. She makes fun of herself for having been on the show. So that door is open. But whenever someone says, “What does your wife do?” whenever I mention she was on The Real World, I always make clear she was on the show before it was mandatory to have sex with three people in a hot tub on the first night.

• In 2001, you played “Jennifer’s Date” in Jennifer. Three memories?: The not-so-funny answer was the movie was about a woman, Jennifer Estes, who wound up dying of ALS. The Quaz Express is supposed to be way more fun, I know. But the irony is, the least-significant character name that I’ve ever been given was in one of the more significant roles I’ve ever played. Not because of its size, but because of its meaning.

• Do you consider it realistic that Donald Trump could be the next president?: I hate to admit it … he’s like a car wreck politician. You can’t help but rubberneck. You want it to go away, but you can’t help but suck down the latest morsel. Do I think there’s a realistic chance he’s our president? Oh, God … I still have to say no. And I’m a very moderate person. I’m not way out on the left or the right. I’m a best-idea-and-best-candidate-wins person. I vote Republican, I vote Democratic. But this is terrifying, that the state of our society and culture is such that this level of fear mongering is successful at this level.

• Is it true, from your first-ever commercial, you get a lifetime supply of Yoshinoya Beef Bowls?: Hahaha. I wish. That’s awesome. Do you eat those? They used to be everywhere. It’s basically fast food udon noodles. No, but I’m gonna make the phone calls. That was my first paid job as an actor. I got $250.

Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens—Hall of Fame?: Yes. Here’s the great tragedy in my view, and probably a lot of views. These are two guys who would easily be in the Hall of Fame had they not been immersed in this other stuff. Let’s work from the assumption that they did use something at some point later in their careers, but they didn’t need to do it. It’s a heartbreaking thing. I look at Roger Clemens. I’ve had to good fortune of meeting him, and really liking him. I’ve been a huge fan. Here’s a guy in the conversation for greatest pitcher of all time. And probably got to a point where he was either going to start to decline or eventually retire, or saw a way to extend a career. And as a result of that decision—if in fact that did happen … to be one of the greatest, who worked harder than anybody, then to be defined by this … it’s just sad.

• Best movie you saw this past year?: Eh … mmm … hmmm … aw. So we have three little kids. So Alvin and the Chipmunks might be up there. (Laughs). No, I’ve got some. The Revenant, Room, The Big Short, Spotlight. I get screeners, so most of what I’ve seen were the screeners. But even if I went, these were terrific. And I loved Inside Out.

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Mike Cernovich

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The Quaz exists not to support my views or reinforce my views, but to engage with interesting people who think in different ways.

Or, put different, I don’t agree with Mike Cernovich on much. He’s just not my type of ponderer. I’ve read through his writings, watched some of his videos, and, well, no. Just not me. But until we stop only listening to people who parrot our ideals, and start engaging with those who offer varying viewpoints, we’ll forever be stuck in this realm of close-minded conformity and ignorance and denial.

So, yeah, Mike Cernovich—author and motivator—sees a war on men where I don’t. And yeah, Mike wants Donald Trump as the 45th president (I consider this an absolute nightmare) and has viewpoints on women that I don’t quite share. But he’s fascinating and unique and prolific and an admirer of Las Vegas and Frank Sinatra.

One can follow Mike on Twitter here and visit his website here.

Mike Cernovich, your pursuit of success is complete. You’re the 249th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: You have a book, “Danger & Play,” that shows one how to, “become a more dominant man, develop a dominate mindset, lose fat, gain muscle, succeed in business, and meet women.” I wanna jump to the last one. What are men doing wrong when it comes to meeting women?

MIKE CERNOVICH.: The biggest mistake men make is failing to understand that meeting women is a skill you can learn.

Everyone by now has heard of hated for pick-up artists. But 99 percent of those guys are scammers, so I get the hate of PUAs. Yet there’s something deeper going on.

If you want to sell more of your books, you’d take a marketing class. You’d read a marketing book. No one would think you’re pathetic for wanting to learn how to sell a product better. If you wanted to become a better public speaker or learn how to act, you’d take a class. Again, no one would call you names or make fun of you. If you tell someone you want to learn how to meet more women, suddenly you’ve opened the floodgates of hate. (The feelings others have when you seek to learn how to meet women is the magic mirror at work yet again.)

You can improve your skills with women just as you can improve your skills in any other aspect of being a human being. Meeting women is about selling yourself. You use a lot of the same principles written about in the groundbreaking work Influence. Men who do not actively learn how to meet women are making a huge mistake and they will not meet the quantity or quality of women they otherwise could.

J.P.: You write a lot about “The War Against Men.” In one particularly fierce blog post, you sorta thrust a pin into the narrative of a single mom whose son used allowance money to buy her dinner. I’m a man, and I haven’t really felt a war against me. But I’m open to the possibility—please explain …

M.C.: You don’t feel the War on Men, as much of it’s invisible until something happens to you.

The War on Men is a lot like the movie, They Live. Most of us are so deep into the narrative that we can’t see the message behind the media we consume. If you were falsely accused of rape, how would you defend yourself? There have been many high-profile false rape accusations ranging from the Duke Lacrosse case to the Rolling Stone/University of Virginia rape hoax. Those stories made headlines. What if you were one of those men who had been falsely accused? Would anyone have your back?

If a woman beat you up and the police were called, who would they arrest? Ask some police officers about mandatory arrest policies. If you got divorced, who would get custody of the children? How much alimony would you pay? Is alimony fair and should it even exist in the current year?

Men commit suicide at four times the rate women do. Where are media articles (more on journalism, later) talking about this crisis? Women’s issues are covered in the media and women’s issues are funded by the government. Even though breast cancer kills as many women as prostate cancer kills, there’s a major funding gap between those diseases. Breast cancer research received far more government funds than prostate cancer research.

Women now earn more college degrees than men do. Why isn’t there a media outcry about discrimination against men in college admissions? In countries where hate speech laws exist, men are prosecuted for trolling women. Yet when a woman started a hashtag saying, KillAllWhiteMen, she avoided prosecution. She wasn’t even banned from Twitter.

When is the last time you read an article in a major publication that was critical of women? What would be the outcry of criticizing women?

You are a professional writer. Imagine I pitch two ideas—“Why American Women Are Broken and Make Poor Wives,” and “Why American Men Need to Man Up and Become Husbands.” Would you seriously argue that both articles would be picked up by a major media outlet? Do you have any doubts as to which article would cause great public outcry—even leading to an editor being fired?

When men and women are written about, there’s a narrative. Men are always the bad guys. Even when men and women suffer equally, the narrative spins the story. There’s an old joke that goes like this: A comet is heading towards the earth. The New York Times headline reads, “Comet destroys planet, women and minorities hardest hit.”

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J.P.: Whenever I see people who insist they can improve my life, I always think, “How the hell do you know?” I mean no offense—I just think, you surely have problems, issues, faults, shortcomings. So what makes you The Guy to help us?

M.C.: I can’t improve your life anymore than I can build your house. Gorilla Mindset is a blueprint for your mind with instructions on how to set up a foundation, enact walls, put on drywall, and even do some painting.

Gorilla Mindset is different than other books in the genre as it’s not a pop science book about some new and interesting discovery. We’ve all read those books, and even I went through my Malcom Gladwell phase. His book Tipping Point was great, although at the end of it you weren’t told how to create tipping points for your own life.

Most non-fiction books make us feel good while reading them while not changing our lives. In Gorilla Mindset, I show you how to improve your life by changing habits, identifying negative thought patterns, changing your self talk, correcting your posture and improving your health.

But I’m clear in Gorilla Mindset that that the hard work is up to you. If your read Gorilla Mindset in the average time it takes (2 1/2 hours), think, “Cool book, bro,” and toss it aside, then you’ve wasted your time. You must engage with the ideas. Even if you think the book is wrong, you’ll find value in it by rejecting what doesn’t work for you and discovering what does work for you.

J.P.: Mike, you wrote a very interesting blog post titled WHY I DON’T PLAY DEFENSE OR EXPLAIN MYSELF. And, truly, it was interesting. You Tweeted a photo of a Black Lives Matter leader, and wrote, simply, “This is the leader of #BlackLives Matter”—and people slammed you for it. You argued how the slamming proved something about people, adding, “My existence triggers something deep within my haters.” But doesn’t context mean something? What I mean is, with your background and past Tweets, it seemed very reasonable that you were, in fact, mocking this woman for being overweight and her general appearance.

M.C.: Where did I say the woman was obese? I never said that.

People wanted me to say that. Why did they want me to say it? It is because they wanted to hate me? Or was there something deeper going on? The Black Lives Matter experiment showed the power of the magic mirror and the law of reflection. As our internal reality is subjective, what we see in a person or situation is a mirror into ourselves. An image is reflected back.

Yet we are largely unaware of this. We have deluded ourselves into believing we perceive objective reality. There’s extensive research on cognitive bias showing that our reality is subjective, although assume it as a given for our conversation. We’ve all seen a guy who is tall, rich, and in great shape. Most of us do not say, “Wow, that’s a great guy. I bet he works hard to stay fit.” Objectively speaking, that’s probably true. Even good looking men are spending time at the gym and eating bland diets of chicken and brown rice.

We instead have feelings reflected back to ourselves. We call him a douchebag or say he has a small penis. Those are our own insecurities being reflected back on. Simply seeing an image—whether that’s a real life person in front of us or a photograph—moves us emotionally. Rather than deal with our emotions and subjective judgments, we lash out.

Now back to the picture I posted.

You are supposed to look at the picture and see someone stunning and brave. Yet no one who sees that image has those emotions. Instead people see a woman who looks like she doesn’t take care of herself. When you show people that image and call her their leader, the magic mirror is at work. Rather than say, “Yikes, this woman should not be leading us,” they blamed me for attacking their leader. Let’s say I had posted a picture of Michael Jordan without comment. Would the reaction have been so volatile?

Of course not.

I forced people to feel a certain way by using the magic mirror on them. For that they hated me.

J.P.: Mike, I know you’re a blogger, an author, a life adviser. But … how did you get here? Birth to now, what’s the journey?

M.C.: I grew up as the fat kid in school and spent some time as a kid on welfare. I dealt with all the shame that being poor brings on a young child, and being poor and fat is about the worst way to grow up. Or so I thought before changing my mindset.

I learned that if you apply your mind, work hard, and avoid major mistakes: You will be successful. That is becoming less true in the U.S., although it’s still the land of opportunity. Work hard. Have a positive mindset. Work harder. Keep pushing forward even when life pushes back. You will succeed.

There’s a bit more to my life than that, and much of my life story is covered in Gorilla Mindset.

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J.P.: I’m gonna take a stab and guess you think Barack Obama has been a shit president. I think he’s been a great president—and I’ll cite the economic recovery, auto industry, gay rights, etc. as a small sample of why. But, again, I’m open. Tell me how you feel …

M.C.: Obama is not better or worse than George W. Bush was. Both of them are warmongers and servants of the elite. McCain would have been no different. Rubio or Cruz would be no different. Clinton or Sanders would be no different.

The U.S. has no business in the Middle East. We should not invade foreign countries nor advocate for the overthrow of stable governments. Obama also supported the bailouts of Wall Street and he has refused to indict a single person who was responsible for crashing the financial markets. The hedge fund tax loophole, which is utterly indefensible, remains in place under Obama.

Thus I’m not an Obama hater. You must measure a person according to some bench mark. Was Obama worse than Romney would have been? For the most part, no, although there’s one exception. Obama has poisoned race relations.

When a black is shot by a police officer or a white person, Obama holds summits and says, “That could have been my son who was shot.” Yet when groups of blacks beat up and kill whites, Obama is silent. When whites are shot by police, Obama is silent. Obama, by treating blacks as a victim class, has set back race relations by at least a decade. On that regard he’s a disgrace.

Otherwise, meh, Obama is another tool of the power elite. He’s a Bush, or Rubio, or McCain, or Hilary.

J.P.: You recently wrote in a post, “Cruz, like every other Republican than [Donald] Trump,” is weak. I don’t see it. I see Trump as a big talker who puffs out his chest, spews a lot of bullshit about walls and Muslims but—it’s just bluster. I mean, George W. Bush put out his “Wanted dead or alive” bluster, and that didn’t work out. So, Mike, you wrote, “I understand Trump better than everyone but maybe two people, because my tactics are the same as Trump’s”What do you like about Trump? Do you think he’d be a good president?

M.C.: Your question shows the magic mirror in action. What do you see in Trump? You see bluster and empty talk.

Trump is a multiple best-selling author. You sell books. How hard is it? This is a tough business. Trump is also a billionaire real estate developer. To build buildings in New York you must take on everyone from the city hall, New York Times critics, and even the mob. While most of us would struggle with a home improvement project, Trump gets buildings built on time and often under budget. He built the ice rink after New York’s top guys couldn’t figure out how to finish it.

Trump also launched a popular reality TV show.

Thus when we are talking about Donald Trump, we are talking about a billionaire real estate developer, a best-selling author (several times!), a TV star, and he’s also a father with great kids. Why then do you see bluster with Trump? Does he trigger some feeling inside of you? That’s the power of the magic mirror.

As far as the substantive issues go, Trump will be a great president because he puts America’s interests first. Politics in America is understood as left v. right or liberals v. conservatives. The new split is between nationalists and globalists.

Nationalists, such as myself, believe we should put America first. Stay out of the Middle East. Close the borders and only allow in immigrants who add value to our country.

Globalists want open borders, largely because open borders boost corporate profits for the 1% by giving them access to cheap labor.

Trump is going to bring jobs back to the U.S. He will put America first.

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J.P.: You surely saw Mitt Romney’s slamming of Trump; you see the money being put into taking Trump down. What are your thoughts on this? Can it work?

M.C.: Spending money to hurt Trump didn’t work when Jeb Bush did it, and it hasn’t worked for Marco Rubio—the candidates that big money establishment donors have backed. Big money spends won’t help Romney, either. Voters already rejected Romney, and indeed Romney did not run for election this year because he was afraid of opposing Jeb Bush.

The only person who can beat Trump is Trump. Trump has run a near-perfect campaign until recently. Some of his sexually-themed jokes did not go over well with dark red states, and that cost him some delegates. Middle Americans love a fight and love a fighter. But—hypocritical or not—deeply conservative Americans can be prudish with sexual humor. Trump’s hand/penis reference was a big much, and that hurt.

That said, Trump is winning open primaries, and thus far has only lost closed primaries and caucuses. With caucuses, there’s a high degree of irregularities, and one wonders what really happened behind closed doors. The GOP will want to stop Trump at the convention. If they cheat Trump out of the nomination, he’ll likely run as a third party candidate.

Even though you and I disagree about Trump and other political issues, we surely agree that this election has been high drama and is likely a once-in-a-lifetime show.

J.P.: You write, “At its best, journalism allows virtuous people to put sociopaths in check. At worst, journalists are sociopaths who attack all who celebrate life and beauty.” Um, I’m a journalist. And I’m pretty sure I’m not a sociopath. So, why the beef? Can’t I just want to document history, events? Does that make me bad?

M.C.: My beef with journalists are several, although let’s narrow it down to three.

First, journalists no longer fact check stories. Do we need to talk about how terrible that Rolling Stone rape hoax was?

Second, journalists are pushing a narrative. Why did that Rolling Stone article, which was a hoax, go viral? Journalists wanted it to be true.

Third, journalists are part of call-out culture. I’ve been written about and there was even a guest who talked about my Twitter on MSNBC.

Fourth, do you know how many journalists contacted me? They called me a vile misogynist, a bully, and a bunch of other names. Did any of those journalists say, “Hey, Mike, what did you mean by this Tweet? Were you trolling? Is there some context?” Journalists are no different from Internet troll these days. They find something about you that they don’t like, call you out for it, and do no fact-checking or independent research.

J.P.: You write with a lot of confidence, vigor, bravado. And I wonder, how do you feel about death? Do you fear it? Does non-existence worry you? Have you evolved/changed on thinking?

M.C.: I no longer fear death because my ideals and books will live on.

On a deep level, I believe I’ve done what I was put on to this earth to do. The rest is icing on the cake. My legacy is set. While I’m not ready to die, it’s nothing to fear any longer. Of course I used to be terrified as death as my childhood was filled with tales of eternal damnation. I do not believe in heaven or hell and thus have no fear of death.

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J.P.: You seem very pro-gun. I’m not. I just don’t see how everyone owning a gun is safe. Convince me I’m wrong, Mike.

M.C.: You won’t change your mind on guns, although here’s something to consider.

Read about the Cambodian Holocaust, Armenian Genocide, and the Rape of Nanking. Study Stalin and read some Alexander Solz

Humans are capable of immense brutality. When humans organize together in governments, they can oppress and murder tens of millions of people. While American shootings are tragic, someone like Stalin would not be able to kill 50 million of us.

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• Five favorite all-time political figures: Marcus Aurelius (for his stoic philosophy), Cicero (for his speeches, read them!), Benjamin Franklin (for his complex and three-dimensonal life story), General George S. Patton (for his audacity), Donald J. Trump (for his mindset principles).

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mark Duper, hardboiled eggs, Megyn Kelly, Ronald Reagan, Berry Bonds, hand sanitizer, the smell of roses, AK-47, Joe Biden, Frank Sinatra, “The Color of Money,” iced tea: 1. AK-47; 2. hard-boiled eggs; 3. the smell of roses; 4. Frank Sinatra. The rest of those items are of no interest to me

• You love Las Vegas, lived there. Five reasons one should make Vegas his/her home: 1. No state income tax; 2. 24/7 culture means you can have whatever you want whenever you want; 3. You can go have a crazy party on the Strip or relax at Red Rock; 4. Great food, some of the best dining in the world actually; 5. Shows like Cirq de Soleil

• Three memories from your senior prom: Prom was the only dance I went to in high school. I did not regret having not gone to other dances. It was boring.

• One question you would ask Dusty Baker were he here right now?: I don’t know who that is and Googling seems like cheating.

• Grossest thing you’ve ever done?: Had unprotected sex with a feminist.

• In exactly 16 words, make a case for bacon: Thinking about eating animals makes me sad and I wish a vegan diet worked for me.

• All-time favorite item of clothing?: Vests—wear them when it’s cold outside instead of a jacket, wear it when it’s warm outside with it open to let the body cool. Vests are the perfect article of clothing.

• Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?: I lived in Malibu and smoked with many at cigar shops, including Axl Rose, which was a big deal for a kid who grew up in the ’80s. However Arnold Schwarzenegger is more famous than Axl, and I met Arnold a couple of times.

• I took my father in law to see “Creed” and we had to leave (family emergency) with six minutes left and the final fight going on. How should I tell him the film ended?: I haven’t seen the film, although have you heard Tony Robbins tell the story about how Sylvester Stallone was broke, sold his dog, sold his Rocky script, and then went to buy his dog back? I don’t want to spoil it. Go watch that story with your dad.

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Jeff Perlman

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Jeff Perlman is cooler than Jeff Pearlman.

I actually just proved that, by calling myself as “Jeff Pearlman.” Which reminds me how tons of athletes used to refer to themselves in the third person. I always found that to be quite lame, and quite obnoxious.

So, again, Jeff Perlman is cooler than Jeff Pearlman.

Jeff Pearlman is a loser writer with a seldon-read Q&A series. Jeff Perlman was the thrice-elected mayor of Delray Beach, Florida; a problem solver who recently authored the book, “Adventures in Local Politics: How leadership brought Delray Beach back.” Jeff Pearlman picks his nose. Jeff Perlman may well pick his nose, too, but he does so with the confidence of a man who understands the intricacies of governance and—despite the awfulness of men like Donald Trump—believes public service can genuinely result in positive change.

Jeff Pearlman stinks.

Jeff Perlman is the 248th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Jeff, I’m gonna start quirky: How do you feel about our name, and what’s your history with it? What I mean is, when I was a kid people used to call me “Pearlgirl” at school. Then, with age, I’d be asked whether I was related to Ron Perlman, and the guy who managed all those boy bands, or Itzhak Perlman. So, how about you? And why’d you even get the name?

JEFF PERLMAN: Great question, Jeff. Like most people, I was born with the name. I was not consulted prior to or after the fact. My parents were pretty traditional, they felt it was their responsibility to name me. I was never called “Pearl Girl” at school, but I’m sure that you put that out there, I can expect that now. I was asked about Ron Perlman and there were the obligatory “Beauty and the Beast” jokes when people saw me with a cute girlfriend. I was always asked about Itzhak Perlman and also about Rhea Perlman and I admit I tried to claim them as relatives a time or two.

But as you became famous, I started getting questions about whether I was the guy who interviewed John Rocker and wrote those great books about the Mets and Walter Payton. And while it saddened me that someone else with my name made it as a writer and I never did, I was also very proud of you. And I was keenly aware that it could have been worse; I went to Hebrew school with a kid named David Berkowitz, not the “Son of Sam”, but just a nice Jewish boy. So I am grateful that you have brought fame and fortune to our name and that you did not become Son of Sam.

I also feel a responsibility to you, so I will not do anything heinous, if I can avoid it. As an ex-politician, I always want an out, but I promise to try to make us proud so that when people Google you, I don’t mess up your rep.

I should also say that I like our name, but I do prefer Jeff to Jeffrey.

J.P.: We spoke when I was running for city council in New Rochelle, and you seemed pretty upbeat about politics. Now, a decade removed, I thank God every week that I lost to Barry Fertel. Meetings, more meetings, complaints, rubber chicken dinners, etc. You served as the mayor of Delray Beach—which seems like a nightmare of a gig. Am I off? And why, or why not?

J.P.: You’re right and you’re wrong. Does that make sense?

Yes there are meetings after meetings and chicken dinner after chicken dinner and stress beyond belief, but serving a city that you truly love is also an amazing experience and a great honor and responsibility. It is beyond cool.

Local government is also perhaps the best place to make a difference since most state capitols and Washington are cesspools of dysfunction. But in theory, in a place like Delray, which is a magical city by the way, if you have an idea on a Tuesday night and two of your colleagues like that idea, change can occur Wednesday morning. That’s very powerful and an incredible opportunity to make a difference. If, of course, you choose to make a difference. When you get elected to local office there are two fundamental questions I think you need to answer. The first is: Do you see the role as a job to do or a job to have? That’s a very simple but profound question. Because if you see it as a job to do, you will take risks, you will seek to move the “big rocks” and you’ll be willing to lose an election if need be. If you decide it’s a job to have, you will spend your term playing dodgeball, avoiding issues, kicking the can down the road and pandering. We have too many dodgeball players, empty suits with egos and too few people willing to frame reality and then have the courage of their convictions. As I grow older and crankier, I have less patience for the panderers and way more appreciation for the transformational leaders—who unfortunately are very rare these days.

The other question you have to ask is who do you want to delight? Being a mayor is a complicated job, but you can simplify it by asking yourself who do I want to please? Because you cannot please everybody; although people try.

Do I want to please the negative five percent who hate everything and tend to be concerned with their own needs or do I want to help those who roll up their sleeves and are out there trying to create opportunities and move the city forward? Do I want to pander to the critics, or do I want to get behind the people trying to clean up a neighborhood or help kids or create cultural opportunities and jobs. To me, the choice is easy. It’s not a trick question. But I see a whole lot of local officials who piss off the doers and kowtow to the angry crowd. At the end of the day, they don’t accomplish much. And they are not remembered fondly.

The former mayor with Flo Rida.

The former mayor with Flo Rida.

J.P.: I always feel bad for athletes when they retire, because they often seem lost, wayward. Is it also that way being an ex-mayor? Was there an adjustment period following your last day? Any depression? Feelings of inadequacy, etc?

J.P.: When you leave office, you instantly become a Pip. Not a Gladys Knight kind of Pip, but a Previously Important Person. So you go from the center of your small piece of the universe to no longer having a vote. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have a say or that you don’t have a responsibility if you truly care about the community.

It is difficult. Most ex-mayors I talk to will deny it, but I have a feeling that most aren’t being truthful. It’s a great experience and then it ends, for most of us just when we begin to figure it out. So unlike athletes who begin to shoot 4-for-24 from the field or throw wounded duck interceptions, we sometimes are retired just when we know what we’re doing. At least that was my experience. I left because there were term limits but I had accumulated all this knowledge and insight—at least I thought I did. Smart mayors are confident enough to look back and involve their predecessors at some level. I had several former mayors I leaned on for advice and insight. There were things that only they understood having sat in the seat.

So yes, there is an adjustment period, but I wouldn’t call it depression. There is a lot of relief—the pressure is off, you get a big chunk of your life and your privacy back. You get to hang with your kids again, but you do miss the action and the ability to make an impact. At least I do.

How do you fix that? You write a book. That was cathartic for me.

J.P.: Your first-ever election. Why? When? What? Tell me everything.

J.P.: I ran once. And I won comfortably against a guy who later became a friend and a neighbor.

We ran a hard race; there were lots of debates and forums. It’s an incredible experience as you know. And it is something that I think is important … you should be willing and able to campaign on your ideas and your vision and if you’re an incumbent you should have to go out and defend those votes. It’s good for the soul. You get heckled, you get doors slammed in your face, you get attacked, you work like crazy and then it’s over.

I was re-elected three times without opposition, which I suppose is a good thing. But I was never afraid to be in an election because I was happy to defend what we were doing. And I was proud of the team’s effort.

When I ran, I raised about $20,000. Now the campaigns in little old Delray are well into six figures. We have Super PACs, candidates writing huge checks for their own campaigns, negative attack ads, TV ads, lots of noise on social media but not as many forums in neighborhoods where you actually stand up in front of real voters and debate your opponent. There are a few big ones, but the grassroots stuff has been overtaken by the air war. And the negativity, even on the local level, where we all know each other and have to see each other at the grocery and the Little League field is astonishing. The last mayoral campaign in Delray was a major turn off.

If I showed you the mail you would have thought Delray was Beirut at its lowest point instead of a really successful, vibrant, cool little city with a kick-ass downtown, a gorgeous beach, wonderful weather, nice neighborhoods and tons of culture and fun things to do. It turned me off and others too. I didn’t vote for any of the candidates—the first time in nearly 30 years that I just couldn’t pull the lever. I walked into the booth and couldn’t vote for either of them; and both were people I have known and enjoyed over the years.

The result of the mud is that good people refuse to run. They are not reluctant, they flat out refuse. So you end up with people not quite ready for the job or even completely unknown; people who don’t understand the community they are tasked to lead.

We should have tough debates about issues, but politics has gotten personal and many people just don’t want to deal with it. Most of us are not perfect, we’ve made mistakes. We’ve inhaled, failed in business before succeeding, been divorced, missed a credit card payment etc. I don’t want to vote for the perfect person who hasn’t failed. That’s not real to me. I don’t want to vote for a train wreck either, but give me somebody who has been humbled by life and has learned from it. For the record, I have a good credit rating, done OK with my career, inhaled and was divorced. And I feel bad about saying I was related to Itzhak Perlman.

With daughter Samantha

With daughter Samantha

J.P.: When John McCain nominated Sarah Palin, much was made of her time as a mayor in Wasilla, Alaska. It was pretty pumped up—tough decisions, business-minded. And I think a lot of us sighed, in that, “Gimme a break–you’re going to use small-town mayoral experience as a reason we should put you in the White House?” But, whether you liked her or not, was there something to it? Can the argument be made that mayoral experience might be helpful as a high-powered federally elected official? Or is that just dumb? And, for kicks, what DID you think of Sarah Palin?

J.P.: I think it’s a big leap from Wasilla or Delray to leader of the free world. But I do think good mayors are problem solvers, great marketers for their cities, non-partisan and solution oriented. And isn’t that what is missing on a national level? Are they solving problems in Washington? I think they are creating them. I think they are ignoring problems and denying facts. I think we ought to be embarrassed and fighting mad about what’s going on. Do I think our best and brightest are running for federal office? No way. Our best and brightest are becoming entrepreneurs and then philanthropists. Our politics have become a clown show and that’s being charitable.

What do I think about Sarah Palin? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about her.

J.P.: How do you deal with the kook? I mean, every town has them—the man or woman who attends e-v-e-r-y public meeting with some oddball agenda (the aliens are eating our corn; we need more guns in the hands of teachers, etc). I’m sure you know who I mean—loud, obnoxious, irritating, ubiquitous. And do you have a story about one? No names required …

J.P.: Well, we have more than our fair share of charmers in Delray. We had one lady who swung a dead cat in the air while speaking in rhyme. We had people who threatened to kill us in creative ways and we had one woman who walked around and filmed us incessantly, following us to the car hoping to catch us saying something heinous. And Jeff, I have promised to try and not be heinous. My favorite story had to do with a woman who was upset because a builder needed to cut down a tree on a property. It was a big tree. It was an old tree and it was—in its day—a beautiful tree. We had a tree doctor give us a report on whether it could be relocated and the diagnosis came back that the tree was dying and could not be moved. The woman insisted that she grew up playing in the tree and she strapped herself to it in protest. I happened to know the guy who owned the property for 50-plus years and he told me he had no idea who the woman was and she certainly did not grow up in the tree.

On the eve of the tree vote, I got a call from the woman who said she was coming to the meeting and was going to humiliate me. She screamed through the phone, “the only thing that will stop me is if I get hit by a truck.” The next night as we are poised to vote on the tree, we have the tree doctor there, our city horticulturist etc. No sign of the woman. I kept looking out into the crowd and into the hallway—nothing. Turns out, she was hit by a truck on her way to the meeting. She was hospitalized but made it … sadly, the tree didn’t. We felt bad about the tree … you simply cannot make this stuff up. Which should have been the title of my book.

Election night joy.

Election night joy.

J.P.: What’s your back story? Like, why politics? Womb to office, how’d that happen?

J.P.: I was born in Queens, N.Y. and raised in Stony Brook N.Y., which was on the eastern end of Long Island. I was a sports fanatic as a kid and a pretty good baseball and tennis player. I grew up listening to classic rock and going to concerts with my friends, one of whom was the little brother of ESPN broadcaster [and 211th Quaz] Linda Cohn. Linda was a few years older and drove us around. We made her laugh and she knew more about sports than anybody we knew. When we turned 50 a year ago, Linda met us in New York City for a sports weekend and she hooked us up—sideline passes to the Giants pre-season game, US Open tickets, Mets tickets. It was great.

I graduated Ward Melville High School, one year ahead of Kevin James, who was a great baseball player, wrestler and football player and who bought a house in Delray. So he has great taste in home towns, too.

I had great parents, a great sister and grandparents who I worshipped and who told incredible stories. We grew up talking politics at the kitchen table, but I never thought I would run for office. I went to college at SUNY Oswego and went to work for local newspapers. I came to Florida in 1987 to escape the snow of upstate New York and committed the cardinal sin of journalists—I fell in love with the town I was covering. I was encouraged to run for office by a mayor I really admired, Tom Lynch, who was incredible and that conversation led me to run in 2000.

I left office in 2007 and went back to my entrepreneurial roots, creating publications and working for a family office helping to grow businesses ranging from a hot sauce company named Tabanero and a beverage company named Celsius to various other ventures including hotels, real estate and restaurants.

I remain involved in the community serving on lots of boards, mentoring kids and young entrepreneurs and starting a foundation called Dare 2 Be Great, which identifies, mentors and provides college scholarships to kids we think can be difference makers right here in Delray. We want them to come back and make our community even better. I was drawn to politics because I wanted to make a difference in the town that I love. I never aspired to higher office; there is no higher office than being mayor of a cool city.

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

J.P.: My greatest moment was walking out the door in March 2007 after giving a short goodbye speech in front of all the people I respected and loved. They stood and cheered and I knew that I got the equation right. I made the right people happy. I’m proud of that. For me, that was the Holy Grail.

The lowest point was the tragic shooting death of a young man named Jerrod Miller, who was shot and killed by a rookie police officer exactly 10 years before Trayvon Martin. He was 15, I had a 15-year-old daughter at the time. It was the most challenging period I had, because the emotions were raw, there was overwhelming sadness, deep-seated anger and tremendous pain. I had hurricanes on my watch, various controversies and they even discovered that many of the 9/11 terrorists had been living in Delray before the attacks, but nothing compared to the Jerrod Miller shooting. There’s no playbook you can read to prepare you for that kind of challenge … where you feel that if you say something wrong, you could lose a city. So you just be human, you let yourself cry with people, you absorb the anger and you try and provide as much comfort as possible. I went to bed every night with his image in my head and there are still mornings where I wake up to that image, probably because I am a father myself and I couldn’t imagine losing one of my children.

J.P.: The American political system just seems so fucked up right now. Hate, hate, anger. Obama is Satan, Trump is Satan, we need more guns, we need more abortion, on and on and on. Jeff, what happened? And is there a way to fix this?

J.P.: What happened? We lost our way. And it’s ugly and it’s astonishing and it’s depressing and the state of our politics ought to be a source of deep national introspection. It is just gross out there. It’s surreal.

So we have a golden age of political comedy because every day we just see more craziness and I laugh like everybody else at Jon Stewart and John Oliver and Colbert. But if you think about it, it’s deeply, deeply distressing.

But I am an optimist, so I think we can fix this. Or I think the next generation can because we have screwed it up something fierce. I think better leadership is the answer to all of our problems. This dysfunction is a result of bad leadership, corrosive leadership. I want that to be my next book, only I want to put it out under your name so it actually sells.

Things can change for the better if we find better leaders, not perfect people, but better leaders. Ones who are emotionally intelligent, not narcissistic bullies who are there to grandstand.

Would federal term limits help? Yes. Is special interest money a problem? Oh yeah, the average person has no voice anymore.

But those are band aids, needed and necessary but we have to attract better people to the process at every level of government. We need to teach leadership skills in school. We need to learn to compromise and work together. We need to learn to listen and we need to rediscover empathy in this country. Empathy built America. My grandparents came here because this was the land of opportunity and because they were safe here. My grandfather, Abraham Perlman, was a tailor, with no formal education. He came here not speaking the language and his son, my dad, went to an Ivy League school. In one generation—that’s a great country. We have these wonderful traits in our DNA, I don’t believe they are lost. But our political class is awful. They are doing a huge disservice to America. If we trade them out for some of the kids that I am seeing through Dare 2 Be Great and there are thousands and thousands of kids like them all across America, we will begin to fix things in this country. So I say bullies and egotists go away and let’s find, nurture and support servant leaders. They are here. We have them. Let’s get them involved and push out the bullies.

J.P.: So as I mentioned, before moving to California I lived in New Rochelle, N.Y.—an awesome place with a decaying downtown. And there was always talk about improving it, making it more upscale, more businesses, expensive buildings, etc. And yet—lots of low-income people live there, work there. And you can’t just discount that and say, “we need to gentrify.” You had a good run with downtown revitalization in Delray Beach. How does one balance the needs to residents with the needs to giving the city a jump?

J.P.: Progress is not a zero sum game as some would frame it.

You can grow responsibly and keep and I believe enhance your charm. There is nothing charming about blight and decay, but vibrancy is very cool.

The best leaders frame reality and the reality is change is going to happen unless you live in Williamsburg or a museum town. So the key is to have a citizen driven vision that addresses what kind of change that you want to see. What kind of feel and scale do you hope to have and preserve? What are the important buildings? Let’s save them or repurpose them if they are vacant.

We have a responsibility to please our residents but also position our cities for the future. They need to be sustainable economically, culturally, socially and environmentally. A good leader sells that message, seeks input from a wide range of residents and tries to learn as much as possible about trends, design and planning principles. Bad leaders are reactive and chase investment away. They are know it alls, always the smartest people in the room.

You have to establish what you value and then have the courage to stick to the vision because it takes years and you’re never done. You can’t declare victory and get complacent, which is a common malady. If you value affordability, there’s a tool box you can use to try and keep your city accessible to small businesses and young families or seniors on fixed incomes. You don’t have to be at the whim of the market nor do you have to bend over for every developer and lower your standards. But you can and should work with developers, you can and should roll up your sleeves and insist that they build to the vision of the community. The best ones will, the ones who won’t—kick them to the curb. We did.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Butch Hobson, Cary Glickstein, J. Cole, Cheesecake Factory, Sears, Big Apple Circus, Rumer Willis, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Miami, Dan Fouts, The Gap, fart jokes, guinea pigs: Miami, guinea pigs, Dan Fouts (he was great), fart jokes, Butch Hobson, Big Apple Circus, The Gap, Rumer Willis, Real Housewives, J. Cole (what is that a store?) Sears and Cary. I would have rated Cary the developer higher. He was a good developer.

• Five reasons one should make Delray Beach his/her next vacation destination?: Great downtown, just incredible. 2. Great hotels (especially Crane’s Beach House). 3. Great restaurants (some even have Tabanero Hot Sauce) 4. Great Beach. 5. Free Concerts at Old School Square every Friday night with great cover bands playing music that boomers love.

• Hillary Clinton calls—she wants you to be her running mate. What do you say?: Can you move the White House to Delray? The weather is better and we have free concerts.

• Three memories from your senior prom?: My date was beautiful. I wore a white tux that made me look like Mr. Roark from Fantasy Island. All the girls had really big hair. It was Long Island, 1982.

• Can Taco Bell revolutionize the burrito?: Only if they use Tabanero Hot Sauce (shameless plug).

• How annoying did you find it having to get book jacket blurbs for your book?: Very annoying. I wish I had asked you. Although it would have looked like I’m blurbing about my own book, which must be against the blurbing rules.

• You wrote in a blog post that “civic pride moves mountains.” What if the mountains are sorta gross and covered in dog snot?: Jeff, it was a metaphor. We don’t even have mountains in Florida. For the record, I have two dogs, I have seen it all, stepped in it all, cleaned it all. I’m not afraid.

• One question you would ask Davis Love III were he here right now?: Mr. Love, we’re both 51. I can’t even win at miniature golf, so how did you win the Wyndham at our age?

• Five favorite political figures of your lifetime?: My mentor Mayor Tom Lynch. My predecessor Dave Schmidt. A guy who ran for office in the Glades under the name “Secret Squirrel”. Commissioner Bob Costin who owned the infamous tree we talked about earlier and never had an email account or a computer and Ian Mellul, who’s not yet a political figure but is a brilliant young man in Dare 2 Be Great who will be president and will fix a whole lot of problems. Remember the name. He’s a magician too, which will help.

• Five least-favorite political figures of your lifetime?: I thought Charlie Crist was the worst panderer of all-time. Ted Cruz—Cruz’ college roommate said he would rather pick someone out of the phone book to be president than see his old roomie in the Oval Office. Yikes. I’m not a big Mitch McConnell fan. To show that my dislike is bipartisan, I don’t like Jimmy Carter and I thought Sarah Palin gave small-town mayors a bad name. That’s three Republicans and one Democrat. Crist was a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, a conservative and a liberal—all in one election cycle. That’s hard to beat.

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This is the 247th Quaz, but it’s a first for two reasons.

One, it’s the first time a Quaz participant has not been fully identified.

Second, it’s the first time a Quaz participant has not been viewed.

Both these elements, however, come understandably. “Deboarh,” today’s interviewee, is a man (by birth) in his early 20s going through transgender transitioning. He was, physically, born male, but believes he is not, truly, male; that he is a woman captured within a man’s body. This would be difficult enough were “Deborah” just an average person with average circumstances. But “Deborah” is an orthodox Jew growing up in Kentucky.

Try digesting that one.

Now try being “Deborah,” and living it.

To be honest, I know little about being transgender. I don’t have any transgender friends, though I’m optimistic that America will treat transgenders with the compassion and support and open-mindedness they deserve.

“Deborah,” thanks for your courage, and thanks for being the 247th Q&A …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you recently reached out to me and said, “I finally accepted the fact that I’m transgendered. It only took 18 years of repressing the girl inside me. Bigotry sucks.” So how did you reach this point of acceptance?

DEBORAH: I had that come-to moment in which I just knew. I’ve always had these urges to wear women’s clothing with no logical explanation of why I wanted to. There was a time in eighth or ninth grade in which I raided my mom’s closet while I was home alone—I was robbed of having an older sister due to miscarriages so I never had that chance to go into my sister’s room and wear her stuff.

Looking back on it, all the signs of being transgender were there. I’ve hid my genitals while looking in the mirror. I’ve played with my chest to make it look like I had some decent cleavage. As long as I can remember, I’ve sat on the toilet to pee.

I came out to a few friends and they accepted and supported me for who I really am on the inside. I reached out to friends in the field of psychology and one asked a few questions of me. They thought I was a crossdresser based on my responses. I had hoped so, too, more so out of fear and personal anxiety than anything else. The moment I wore a bra and panties at the end of November was the moment that I really knew I am definitely a girl on the inside.  t felt so natural and I wanted what was underneath to be real.

J.P.: I don’t think people understand what it “feels” like to consider oneself transgender. I mean, I think I’ve always thought like a guy, as a guy. Seemed to make sense. So … please explain. What do you feel? What do people not understand? What do you want them to know?

D: There were times while growing up that I knew something was different. I was constantly teased over other things from elementary through high school so I repressed myself as much as I possibly could. I’ve always been attracted to women but lately after opening my mind to who I am inside, I’ve started to develop an interest in men, preferably the FTM (female-to-male) types.

A lot of people don’t understand how this isn’t a choice. Gender identity and sexual identity are two completely different things.

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J.P.: Now that you’re here, what’s the process to come? Hormones? Sex change? And how can you be sure you aren’t doing something irrevocably erroneous? Put different—how can you be so sure?

D: This is where lots and lots of therapy will come into play to find the authentic me. I’m seeing a therapist and when I first met with this person, I was still somewhat in denial. I know that I feel incomplete without breasts and I hate seeing the bulge when I’m wearing panties. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is definitely the first step and matching the carpet with the drapes.

J.P.: You’re a kid growing up in a relatively normal world. Parents, siblings, school, etc. So when did you first think, “I might be different”? Was there a sign? Urgings? Something?

D: The earliest clear memory was in 1997. I wanted to be Kate Winslet. The urgings were there but when you’re not home alone that often, you can’t take action on those urgings.

There was also a time in 1998 in which I wrote a short story for class and turned Jack Ryan into Jackie Ryan. I can’t explain why I did what I did.

J.P.: You are, I believe, a fairly religious Jew. How has that shaped you, and how does that factor here?

D: I’m still reconciling my religious beliefs about this. Halacha is clear on the matter when it comes to castration and crossdressing. But if one feels they are of a different gender than their own, is it really crossdressing?

Most Orthodox Jews that come out as transgendered end up being shunned by their community. This is what makes things hard and why I’ve asked that you keep me anonymous. I live in a city with such a small Orthodox community that making a minyan is tough each week. I could be selfish and come out right now but at the same time, that’s one less person for the minyan. It’s never easy coming out.

With Transparent being such a Jewy show, it has helped bring TG into the mainstream. On that note, I still have my witty side and that’s not going anywhere no matter how I appear on the outside.

J.P.: What are the things you’re most excited for?

D: Getting boobs—my mom is well endowed so there’s a chance I’ll end up with C cups after hormones but I’ll settle for B cups.  Taking a journey into womanhood without ever getting a period. Finally being the real me that I am on the inside.

J.P.: What are your fears?

D: That I’ll be shunned by Orthodox cousins of mine. That I’ll be that weird parent because I was born of a different gender. I want biological children so freezing my sperm is a no brainer but it’s a matter of finding my true love. Like everyone else, I want my happy ever after.

J.P.: How much are you immersed in trans culture? Do you know other trans? Have you found a support group? (My wife, a social worker, recommends you get one)?

D: I’ve been chatting with a few online through a forum I discovered a month ago.  My therapist runs a support group and I’m in touch with folks at Eshel, a support group for LGBT Orthodox Jews.

J.P.: You live in Kentucky—that can’t be a hotbed from transgender acceptance. Are you considering a move?

D: Very soon.

J.P.: You recently told your parents about this. I can’t imagine that was fun. How did it go over? What did they say? Can they deal?

D: It’s going to take some time for them to accept me as their daughter. My mom found my stash of clothes so it’s speeding up my move from summer to February.  I think they’re still in a state of shock. My mom thinks I’m “weird” and “bored to death.” I think once she sees The Danish Girl, she’ll understand a bit more.

J.P.: Random and trivial, but what do you think of the whole Bruce Jenner-Caitlyn Jenner thing? Is it helpful for you? Is it just bullshit publicity from a bullshit family? Both? Neither?

D: It’s helpful for spreading awareness of TG but I could do without that family.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): The Weeknd, Matt Damon, David Price, Ella Fitzgerald, sixth grade math, hot chocolate in a thermos, Mitch McConnell, honey lemon cough drops, Sammy Sosa, Delta Airlines: Matt Damon, David Price, could care less about the rest

• Five favorite words: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

• One question you would ask Bruce Willis were he here right now: Did you ever think of getting a hair transplant?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash. If so, what do you recall?: No, but I was so afraid for my first flight.

• Five reasons one should make Kentucky his/her next vacation destination: Horse capital of the world, Louisville Slugger, Rupp Arena, Corvette Museum, Jennifer Lawrence.

• In 22 words, make the case for why Pearl Jam needs to add a shofar player: I don’t know …

• I feel like my daughter looks at her cell phone too often. How unethical would it be for me to throw it in the toilet and piss on it?: Go for it. I hate movie texters.

• Can you explain the return to Colonel Sanders? It baffles me: Talk to KFC.

• This is my all-time least-favorite song. Your thoughts?: Not sure

• If you had to get a tattoo across your head, what would it say?: I’m never getting a tattoo. The Bible forbids it. I have a fear of needles and yet I plan to get my ears pierced next year.

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Julia Lescova

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I’m not a big model guy.

That doesn’t mean I don’t respect the business, or find impressiveness in those who make it far.

It’s just, well, I don’t give models much thought. They’re (generally) tall, skinny, angular and decked out in next season’s fashions. They walk runways, make sexy expressions and pose suggestively. I’ve been around my fair share of models dating back to Sports Illustrated, and well, they just sorta exist.

But not Julia Lescova.

First, Julia is smart. And insightful. She not only excels at the profession, but likes explaining it to others. She’s one of the biggies in the fashion world, but still has time to be Quazed. Which is cool.

One can follow Julia on Twitter here, Instagram here and visit her website here.

Julia Lescova, who needs the Swimsuit cover? You’re the Quaz.

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Julia, I’m thrilled to have you here, and to be able to ask you this question. My daughter is 12. She’s extremely tall for her age, blonde, with blue eyes, rosy skin, fruit punch lips, etc. I’ve had m-a-n-y people say, “Does she model?” And, to be honest, I’d rather her dig ditches filled with dog excrement. Here’s why: I hate the idea of her being judged for her looks. I hate the idea of men drooling over her half-naked pictures. I hate her feeling pressure to weigh 98 pounds at 5-foot-10. Tell me (and, I swear, I have an open mind), why am I wrong?

JULIA LESCOVA: Well, your daughter is a very lucky girl to have such a protective father. One thing about me, my mom raised me and my brother alone. My father left us when I was 2 and he died when I was 18. I never had a father and he was never around. My mom had to work out of the country when she left her teacher’s job, to survive for our family. It wasn’t easy in post-Soviet Latvia to raise two kids. I started working when I was 15-years old and traveling and making money all over the world at a young age because that was my way to survive first and then it became my career. American models have it much easier and not with as much struggle. I’m sure it would be much more fun for your daughter and you would be there to protect. But if she has a choice, I would rather recommend that she go to college and get a degree. Nothing is better/sexier than educated and beautiful women.

J.P.: In 2011 you were the face of Guess, replacing Kate Upton. Which is really cool. How did that happen? Like, for all of us who have no clue, how does a model go about landing a really sweet, huge gig?

J.L.: Yes, it’s very difficult to land a big gig like that. A lot of people have to see you and you have to have the right look. I was very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time and to have the right look. I’m of course very grateful.

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J.P.: Back when I was a young up-and-comer at Sports Illustrated, one of the “perks” was getting to escort the models to the Swimsuit Issue premiere party. One thing I remember is the number of models who smoked cigarettes. I mean, tons upon tons, upon tons. Which struck me as sorta weird, because in print and video you are portrayed as the models of health. Why, Julia, do so many models smoke? And do you think it has changed at all?

J.L.: I don’t smoke. Never did. I don’t really know many models who smoke. But I think back then maybe they did. It was at a time when all models were skinny and smoking helps staying skinny, I heard. They also didn’t eat much to stay skinny. So it was coffee, no food, and constant smoking. Not any more. Before an image didn’t have to be as healthy as it has to now. Maybe you are referencing models from the 1980s and 90s. Nowadays it’s not as prevalent. It used to be cool to smoke. Now with all the new studies it’s now became not cool to smoke. Kind of unattractive.

J.P.: I remember, back when I was in elementary and junior high, the tall girls weren’t actually the ones boys were interested in. Even if they were gorgeous—I think there was probably something intimidating about dating someone taller than you, blah, blah. Anyhow, was that your experience? Were you “the tall girl”? And, since we’re back in time, you were 15 when you left Latvia for Los Angeles. That must have been terrifying, no?

J.L.: Yes, tall girls are intimidating, indeed. Many models I know were “awkward” as teenagers, as was I. Too skinny, too tall, too awkward, too long feet, too skinny toes. I was the last of all to start hanging out with boys.

I wasn’t 15 when I got to Los Angeles. I traveled all around the world before I got to Los Angeles. I’ve lived here for six years. I was 22 when I got here. By 22 I spoke five languages and lived in several different countries. I was living in Italy … Milan when I got to LA. My modeling carrier took me to living in Milan, London, Istanbul, staying in Athens, Honk Kong, Singapore, Thailand and more. I would go to different places all the time. I was very “prepared” when I got to Los Angeles. After what I’ve been through and the way I grew up, nothing could break me. I became very strong and unbreakable.


J.P.: I’m going to be really blunt, and I hope it doesn’t offend you. It seems there is a face all female models must master. For lack of better words, it’s the “Let’s have sex right now” face. Lips pursed, eyes slightly narrowed. And yet, I’m a 43-year-old man who has had his fair share of sex (hell, I have two kids as proof), and I’ve NEVER gotten that look. Like ever. So, Julia, A. What the heck is the look? B. Do guys ever get that look? C. And why do you think it’s equated with sexiness?

J.L.: Every guy deserves this look. Lol. I’m sorry if you never got one. Or maybe you never paid attention? I’m sure guys do get this look. As for the why of it—well, doesn’t it make you feel something, looking at the gorgeous girl with that look? That’s sexy, so it’s equated with sexiness.

J.P.: I was at Sports Illustrated when Tyra Banks became the first African-American woman to grace the Swimsuit Issue cover. It was talked about quite a bit at the time, in terms of breakthroughs and such. I’m wondering, do you feel there are different standards/expectations/prejudices for models of color, ethnicity? Is a model a model a model, or does race/ethnicity still come into play?

J.L.: I don’t think any longer. Before, unfortunately, for sure. It’s all changed, history changed. A hot girl is a hot girl. Always. No matter what color/ethnicity. I think. Great for Tyra Banks to have that breakthrough. I think it was some window opening of every ethnicity beauties.

J.P.: Whenever I read profiles of beautiful women, it seems they always talk about wanting “just a normal guy” who loves “the simple things” and “good conversation.” But then, upon further review, it seems the famous end up dating the famous, the beautiful end up dating the beautiful, and the world’s 300 million nice, middle-of-the-road guys go home lonely. Do the models you know only date hot guys? Or do we schlubs have a shot?

J.L.: Hahaha this is funny actually. At the end of the day, it’s all just about the chemistry. Whoever the guy is and whatever he does. Energy that pulls you two together and doesn’t let you separate from each other. I think it’s energy from God and it’s meant to be. You grow together and grow into each other. It depends where you look. You find that chemistry with someone. Sometimes it can come as an accident that you are not prepared for. And another time certain people plan it out and look for it in certain places. It depends what you “planned” for yourself. That’s how they find beautiful to beautiful, successful with successful, actor with actress, model with musician or whatever. It depends where you hang out, I guess. I don’t plan these things and I’m just prepared for the gift from God. Not searching. It will come when it’s supposed to.

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J.P.: This is random, but … I grew up with a beauty mark on my face. It was one of those 3-D ones that kids make fun of, and I had it removed years ago. But as a kid it made me miserable. And I vividly recall wondering why no one in magazines like People and GQ have moles, beauty marks, scars, etc. Now, obviously, I’m aware of the myriad powers of digital editing. I wonder, Julia, do you think it goes too far? Or do you think this is all sorta fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to present visual perfection in a magazine?

J.L.: Someone’s imperfection can be someone’s trademark. Isn’t it what Cindy Crawford’s mole became? Lara Stone has huge gap between her main two teeth. Trademark. And I find it sexy. A mole can be sexy, too. It’s however you represent it. If you are shy/embarrassed of it, it will show like an imperfection. And if you love yourself the way you are and you are confident, and actually find that imperfection as different, cool—you can turn it into trademark. Like, scars on men can be extremely sexy. Story telling. It’s unique. Different. However you look at it.

As far as photoshopping I think it really depends on who’s being photoshopped, what product or publicity is being promoted and who is going to be seeing at and where they are going to be seeing it.

J.P.: What’s the best part about your job? Like, when are you at your absolute highest/happiest?

J.L.: Working with great, motivated, inspired, creative people with vision. Sometimes moving onto different projects with them and building friendship with them. Creating beautiful images that last forever, almost like creating image history. I’m the happiest when I see the final image that I’m in love with. That took effort (or no effort) to create together with a team of great people.

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• You were on the Shahs of Sunset in 2012. How did that happen?: I just passed by a friend’s house when they were filming.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash If so, please elaborate: No, never thought of it. My flights have been pretty smooth, thank God. I feel very protected by my angels.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Celine Dion, Don Mattingly, Ben Folds, Julio Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, the smell of mustard, Chuck D, Back to the Future, Alf, Radio City Music Hall, Naples, Florida, The Good Wife: Can we skip this?

• Five things you always carry with you?: My phone—duh; Wallet; 32 breath crystals; Cle de Peau concealer; Aquaphor lip balm

• You walk past a construction site and someone whistles. How do you respond?: Ignore

• My therapist says I worry too much. Any advice?: The therapist should help you :)

• Best advice you’ve ever received?: Love yourself first.

• Five greatest models of all time: Stephanie Seymour, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Tarlington, Natalia Vodianova

• You get a call from Hugh Heffner. He wants to pay $400 million for you to star in his upcoming Playboy original film—“Naked Models Romp on a Beach Naked for 90 Minutes.” Do you consider it?: Nah.

• One question you would ask Matt Harvey were he here right now?: Who is Matt Harvey?

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Kelly Swanson

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Over the course of two decades in the business, I’ve dealt with an endless conga line of publicists—95 percent of whom stink.

I mean no offense. It’s just that, well, no matter how many times you call, I’m not writing about a foam cheese head, or interviewing Menudo’s former road manager. I don’t want to meet Rex Hudler, or try tuna ice cream or sit in on a conference call with the seven living members of the 1933 New York Yankees.

Sorry. I just don’t.

Kelly Swanson gets it. She’s always gotten it, even since I was a young buck at Sports Illustrated and she was pitching boxing-related stories. Kelly is a journalist’s publicist—meaning: A. She knows her stuff; B. She won’t waste your time with trash. Wanna know if a PR person is trustworthy? Wait for him/her to say, “Look, I know you probably won’t wanna do this, but I have to at least try.” That’s the sort of publicist I dig. That’s Kelly.

For more than 20 years, Kelly has been the biggest publicist in boxing. Her clients are legendary, her fights larger than life. She also happens to be one of the coolest people I know, despite her apparent disinterest in granola and Malik Rose.

One can visit Kelly’s site here, and follow her on the ol’ Twitter here.

Kelly Swanson, to hell with Floyd and Hopkins. You’re the undisputed 245th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kelly, boxing is one of the most criticized, lambasted sports on the planet. And yet, you’ve devoted much of your career to it. Why? And what do you think people misunderstand about the sport?

KELLY SWANSON: Boxing is an uncomfortable sport to watch if you don’t know or understand it. Most people don’t know how to watch boxing and therefore they don’t see its technical side through the offensive and defensive skills that are displayed during a fight. It’s actually similar to any of the other contact sports, such as football or hockey, when two or more make aggressive contact. From what I am reading these days, I think I would want to be a really good fighter over a football player.

Also, the fighters love to fight. They absolutely love to do it. For most of them, who sauntered in or were sent to their neighborhood boxing gym as young troublemakers, it’s the only way out of what are some terrible circumstances, whether it’s their family situation or their local surroundings with negative influences. I see their passion and their plight and I am OK with trying to help them make their world a better place for themselves and their families. It’s their backstories that make for unbelievable copy. Several fighters’ stories I have pitched have ended up on A1. That’s thrilling to me as a publicist.

J.P.: You work a ton with Floyd Mayweather—a marvelous boxer and the closest thing we have to a villain in pro sports. So … what’s he like as a person? As a guy to work with? Are we missing something when we label him as “bad.” And is he truly trying to orchestrate a certain image, or is he a guy who just can’t help himself.

K.S.: Floyd was an extremely hard-working and dedicated professional athlete who took his craft very seriously and became one of the greatest fighters of all time. As far as working with him, which I did for more than 10 years until he retired this past fall, he has always been respectful and appreciative of my help. I was able to do a job for him that he needed, and in so doing we had a lot of success. He probably executed more than 5,000 interviews over the 10 years we worked together. As a small business, he contributed greatly to the overall success of my company during these years. He was very loyal to me and I to him.

As for who Floyd is as a person, few get to see or know the real one. A lot of fighters are very insular. Floyd lives by himself. When he is alone, or with his closest friends, which is a very small circle by choice, he is reserved and actually pretty quiet.

But having grown up in the public eye and accumulated the wealth he has, I believe it is confusing for him at times. I think because of the nature of the “bad” guy persona crafted as part of his “image,” and his willingness to “show off” his success with bravado and flash, people either love him or hate him. He has taken his share of criticism from a lot of people.

Yes, he has had his own personal failings that are well documented and known to everyone. But he has also paid for those failings and is doing the best he can to not make the same mistakes again; to be a better person all around. You have to respect someone, whether you like him or not, for doing that. It’s the nature of humanity.

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J.P.: You spent many years working with Riddick Bowe, one of the great heavyweights of the past 30 years and one of the saddest boxing sagas of quite some time. Why, just recently the New York Daily News ran the story, “Riddick Bowe, former boxer, says he will Tweet anything for $20.” And it was true. Kelly, what went wrong with Riddick Bowe? And how does it make you feel when you see former clients done in by the sport?

K.S.: It’s very sad what happened to Riddick. He had such a gigantic, fun-loving personality when he was fighting and he was a very happy guy. But he also had personal hardship when his marriage fell apart (his first wife was the mother of his five children). I don’t think he ever recovered from this and instead of relying on the people that helped secure his financial future, he turned his back on them and made some bad decisions to find himself in the situation he is in now.

J.P..: Back in 1991, you got in a heated exchange with a fighter named Elijah Tillery, but I’ve never heard the details. So … what happened? And did you ever make up?

K.S.: Very funny JP, and only because it is you will I answer this question. Riddick fought Elijah Tillery and we were all staying at the same hotel for fight week. Every time I saw this guy, he would say, “Yeah, don’t worry, come Sunday, you’ll be working for me!” So the night of the fight, after Bowe beat him, I went around to his corner (he was still in the ring) and said, “Yeah, Elijah, ha ha ha (or something like that)” and he turned and spit at me. It was disgusting and thankfully it landed on my clothes. But trust me I never let that happen again! Who was I to think I could go toe-to-toe with a real prizefighter, let alone a heavyweight!

J.P.: This might sound simplistic, but why do so many boxers end up broke? I mean, some of these guys make millions upon millions. Is it background? Is it people leeching on? Why?

K.S.: Why do so many athletes end up broke? I don’t think it is just boxing but I do think there is more responsibility in the other sports, the ones that have commissions, team ownership and other resources, to not let this happen on such a regular basis.

Boxing is a sport of the streets and fighters don’t have a great “trust” gauge. So when it comes to their money, they would rather keep it to themselves than work with others to help them with their savings and investments. It’s sad because it never works.

J.P.: So I know you grew up in Buffalo, I know you’re based out of New York City—but why did you become a publicist, and why a boxing publicist? When did you first know this is what you wanted to do?

K.S.: I didn’t know I wanted to be a publicist right away, but I did know fairly young, maybe high school, that I wanted to work in sports. I grew up with three brothers and all we did was play and watch sports, one of which was boxing. When I moved to New York City after college, I started to look for a job in sports and landed a public relations job at a small sports PR firm. It was great and my career took off from there.

I have worked and do work in many other sports besides boxing (you can check our website). But a lot of my business comes from the sport and it is our niche. I am delighted that I have had such a successful career and boxing has been a part of that success. When my agency was chosen to handle the overall publicity for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight, in addition to handling Floyd’s individual PR, that was the greatest compliment to our success. It was a tremendous job, which came with an enormous amount of responsibility. We were congratulated for our efforts.

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J.P.: You’re the best publicist I’ve ever dealt with, and it’s not even close. But I wanted your take—what makes a good publicist and what makes a shitty one? Are there obvious differences dividing good vs. awful?

K.S.: Thanks JP. That’s a huge compliment as I am sure you have worked with many good ones. I think the single most important part of being a good publicist is to know and have passion for your clients, whether they’re persons, products or events. Know the intricacies of what makes their stories unique, fresh, new, different, odd, topical, time sensitive and relevant. Also you have to know and study the person you are pitching to. I’ve heard horror stories from my friends in the media about calls they received from publicists asking them to cover something they aren’t even remotely covering (ah, I think you told me that, too). Unfortunately there are too many publicists that are just told to “pitch” because it’s their job and not their passion. That’s when they are shitty.

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

K.S.: Couple of great moments—When Riddick Bowe won the world heavyweight title; this past year working on one of the biggest event in sports history—Mayweather vs Pacquiao.

Lowest—doing a press conference for a coffee table book on Notre Dame and no one showed up. It was my first assignment with this client, the publisher, and I was mortified. This past year when I found out members of the press will create falsehoods just to infuse themselves into a story they have no business being a part of, rather than just to cover it, if in fact they even have a real assignment to cover. Ridiculous.

J.P.: Give me your absolute craziest story from your boxing experiences.

K.S.: Would probably have to be working with Bernard Hopkins when he fought Tito Trinidad. We were in Puerto Rico promoting the fight. During the press conference, which was open to the public, Bernard took the Puerto Rican flag out of Tito’s hands and threw it on the ground. All hell broke lose and we basically had to run for our lives. That was crazy!

J.P.: There was recently a piece in Sports Illustrated on Don King, and how he’s now this sorta sad, washed-up has-been. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of King experiences. Was he as awful as they say? And what would you say is legacy is in the sport?

K.S.: Not that awful and his legacy would have to be that he created the most dynamic boxing promotions and storylines of all time in the history of the sport. Very hard working, and although he isn’t what he used to be, he is around at the tender age of 84 and still working as hard as he can.

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Hagler-Leonard—who do you think won?: Hagler

• Rank in order (favorite to least)—Malik Rose, Jake Locker, Boom Boom Mancini, Yom Kipper, Shamu, Empire State Building, granola, brown rice, Eight Men Out: Boom Boom Mancini, Shamu, Yom Kippur, Empire State Building, bottled water, brown rice, granola, Eight Men Out, Malik Rose, Jake Locker and Boise.

• Five nicest athletes you’ve ever dealt with?: Caron Butler, Felix Trinidad, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Bob Beamon and Sam Shields

• One biggest jerk?: As a publicist can’t kiss and tell! Sorry!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope, but I have the dream all the time. I always wake up!

• One question you ask Bill Frist were he here right now?: As a former heart and lung surgeon, do you eat southern BBQ, ribs in particular?

• We give you one start in a WNBA game—this coming season. You play the entire game. How many points you score?: If I am lucky I hit my favorite shot—the 3-pointer from left side, back of circle. Made it every time in high school.

• I just paid $5 for a coffee drink. This seems ridiculous. In 14 words, tell me why I’m wrong: I just saw 7-Eleven has $.50 small special. Sometimes fancy coffee is worth it, but 7-Eleven has good coffee too.

• Fill in the blank: “When I see Muhammad Ali, I feel …” Love.

Celine Dion calls. She wants to hire you as her personal publicist. Two guaranteed years, $45 million per. But you have to cut off one finger, get a Celine tattoo on your left knee and legally change your name to Pen Case IV. You in?: Which finger?

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L. Jon Wertheim

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In many regards, I owe the subject of today’s 244th Quaz my happiness.

Back in 1999, when we were co-workers moving up the ladder at Sports Illustrated, Jon Wertheim invited me to his wedding. I was, truly, a fringe guest; an office chum and probably the 199th of 200 invitees. Not only had I known Jon for just three years, but I’d never met Ellie, his fiance.

Anyhow, that night—standing alongside Grant Wahl (another SI pro)—I watched as this angelic little creature (Ellie’s best friend) gave a toast as the maid of honor. She was beautiful and energetic and, it seemed, a bit nervous …

Seventeen years later, she’s my wife and the mother of our two kids.

All because of Jon Wertheim.

That said, he’s not this week’s Quaz because of any sort of payback. Nope, Jon happens to be one of America’s best sports journalists; a dazzling writer and storyteller who has mastered the art of turning spoken words into timeless features. He also happens to be the author of an excellent new book, “This is Your Brain on Sports,” which lands everywhere today. I’ve known Jon for two decades, and he’s one of the most decent and compassionate people in the business. He also loves Dean Garrett and Dairy Queen (but no one’s perfect). One can follow Jon on Twitter here, and read much of his work here.

Jon Wertheim, welcome to the land of the Quaz …

J.P.: Jon, I’m gonna start randomly joyful. A decade ago you wrote an excellent book about Indiana basketball called, “Transition Game.” During the promotional period, you were sent to a bookstore that didn’t exist. Details, please …

J.W.: First off, there is a vast gulf between the perception and reality of a “book tour,” a concept that sounds infinitely more glamorous than it, in fact, is. This was a decade ago or so. I don’t want to pick on the publicist because I’m sure he was overworked, undercompensated and given limited resources. I was sent to a Fort Wayne Barnes & Noble for a signing—which consisted mostly of me sitting idly behind a table alongside a stack of unsold books and explaining to passers-by that, no, I didn’t know where the diet books were located or whether gift-wrapping was free. (Every author has stories like this.)

On my itinerary, I was told that I should make time to visit another Fort Wayne store in the afternoon. The Coffee-Stained Cover, or whatever it was called. So after this B&N debacle, I drive to the strip mall, do a cursory check in the rearview mirror of my rental car to make sure I don’t have remnants of my Chipotle lunch in my teeth, optimistically grab my Sharpie and get out of the car … only to see that the store is vacant. I ask someone at the neighboring establishment whether the store has moved or I have the wrong address. “Nah, they shut down a few months back.” O-kay.

I call my publicist and ask how exactly this shuttered store ended up on my schedule. He mumbled something to the effect of, “Well, I know we had a good relationship with them in the past.”

“Yeah, but did you actually contact someone at the store in advance of my visit?”

“Well, not necessarily. But, again, that store had been good to our authors in the past.”

J.P.: You’re the executive editor of Sports Illustrated, which means you’ve seen this whole journalism thing from a writer’s perspective and an editor’s perspective. So, having that vision, what becomes of print journalism? Is there a physical magazine on paper a decade from now? Two decades from now? Do you think the decline of print has hurt the business? Quality and such? Helped? Does it bother you? Not concern you? Both? Neither?

J.W.: I feel like there’s this great irony in media. Many of us got into this profession, yes, because it allowed us to write and travel and meet interesting people and tell our stories and offer our commentary; but also because it was an alternative to spending days working under fluorescent lights, consumed with quarterly revenue reports, P/L statements, spreadsheets, focus group data and the like. Because of the—I think this year’s euphemism is precarious–state of media, we’ve all turned into management consultants. Without irony, we spend half of our time discussing whether gains in digital can offset the decline in print or how an a la carte pricing model for cable might impact ESPN’s cash flow in the era of cord-cutting.

As for SI, I don’t think I’m trafficking in industrial secrets when I say that the print magazine is still profitable. (And, immodestly, I would assert that the quality on the pages is still, consistently, high.) I’d like to think that, so long as that’s the case, there will be a place for the print product. But, honestly, I’m indifferent to platform and think most of my colleagues are as well. It’s like Willie Sutton and the banks—you’re happy to go where the audience is.

I have two optimistic riffs. 1) if no one gave a shit about sports, we’d be in trouble. But people are more engaged than ever. So long as that’s the case, this is a solvable riddle and we should proceed on the assumption that there will always be a place for well-told stories, incisive columns, enterprising ideas, investigations etc. I will always want to read Steve Rushin and Tom Verducci and Scott Price, whether it’s on my phone or in hieroglyphics on my cave wall.)  2) The dirty secret is that this uncertain, multi-platform world is a lot of fun. You write one day and do t.v. on another day and try not to embarrass yourself podcasting on the third. It’s like MMA versus boxing The notion of only being a writer (or commentator or radio host) and not doing the other disciplines, sort of seems as limiting as only using your fists in combat.

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J.P.: You have a book coming out today called “This is Your Brain on Sports.” I was riveted by the chapter on quarterbacks and looks, and whether the position truly draws handsome men. And I wonder—what even made you think to explore the subject? I mean, where did the idea come from? How do you go about pursuing it? Is the a result you’re anticipating, or hoping for?

J.W.: My co-conspirator, Sam Sommers, is a social psychologist. At the early stages of this book, we brainstormed—to use a cringe-inducing word—and came up with a list of topics to explore. The whole idea of the book is to try and explain and/or explore some of the quirks of sports. Why do we root for cheaters when they play for our team but boo like crazy when Ryan Braun comes to town? Why do athletes choke? Why do athletes play so well in the immediate aftermath of tragedy? (You know better than anyone about the game Brett Favre had the weekend his dad died.)  Why do we go nuts for that stupid t-shirt cannon? “Why are quarterbacks so good looking?” was high on the list. When we tested this, the results were really interesting.

J.P.: You may well disagree with this, but I feel like when we were coming up at SI, we all had our little breakout moments. I guess mine would be John Rocker, and yours, perhaps, would be Paternity Ward, the 1998 piece you co-authored with Grant Wahl on pro athletes and out-of-wedlock children. The story was doggedly reported, deftly written—and included a cover featuring the young son of Celtics guard Greg Minor. I remember, at the time, feeling conflicted. Was this right, or was it taking it too far? I don’t think I ever had an answer. But looking back almost 18 years—do you? Was the magazine wrong, right, journalistic? And what do you, specifically, recall from the reporting?

J.W.: You mean the story itself or the cover? I think the story was—and is—fair. I would sign off on it today if the idea crossed my desk. The cover … yeah, now that the statute of limitations has lapsed, I would probably be inclined do it differently today. It was an arresting image, no doubt. But that poor guy—no longer a kid—had no agency, no say in what was a pretty major decision. He could perfect the self-driving car or win the Heisman trophy and Google might still identify him as the poster child (literally) for athletes having children out-of-wedlock. At least once a year a colleague or reader will encourage me to write a “Where are They Now?” piece on the kid—notice that I’m taking pains not to mention him by name–who’s now in his 20s. I have no interest. Give the guy his privacy.

With the legendary Bud Collins.

With the legendary Bud Collins.

J.P.: I know you’re an Indiana kid, I know you attended Yale, I know you have a law degree. So … why journalism? Why (and how) this path?

J.W.: I get this a lot and always feel like I should have a better answer than I do. I guess it ultimately redounds to this: I care about (and like) writing and reporting and being in media, more than anything else.

Like so many people in media (and this is a real virtue of the profession), my path was random. After my first year of law school, I worked as a summer associate in a big firm. I was well-paid, met important people, ate fabulous lunches…and almost got carpel tunnel syndrome looking at my watch, hoping the days would end. There was no way in hell I had the constitution to do that for the next 40 years. That next summer I applied for an internship at Sports Illustrated. This was (gulp) 1996, after O.J. and Mike Tyson and at a time when there was a realization that the intersection between sports and the law was only getting busier. I was told, “Go be a junior Lester Munson.” I had a great time and, cheesy as this sounds, felt like I’d found my tribe. I stayed on staff for my third year of law school, graduated, took the New York bar and started at SI the next day. Grant Wahl and I shared an office. You were a few doors down. Been here ever since; and am hopelessly behind in my NY State bar dues.

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

J.W.: Lowest moment? I don’t know. We’ve all stories had we wish we could do-over. Phrases and conceits (and entire pieces) that now make us cringe. Times we could have and should have reported more vigorously or creatively. Times when we were sloppy or lazy. I remember being pretty down after covering Penn State and Sandusky. I spent a week there and I remember coming back and thinking, “This sports industrialist complex created this climate. The hero worship. The absence of accountability. These insulated athletic departments that are mere outgrowths of the university. And much as we like to think of ourselves as these watchdogs, we’re all part of the machine.”

Greatest moment? I don’t know. Here’s one and I hope this doesn’t come across as self-serving: I’m really proud of Sports Illustrated in 2016. What do I mean by this? When you and I started at SI in the mid/late 90s, it was the tail end of the golden age of magazines. We had off-site junkets and fancy parties with ice sculptures and lines of black town cars to take us home in our intoxicated states. No expense was spared in pursuing a story. Resources were abundant. Today it’s obviously a much different media climate. And with a much smaller staff and in this do-more-with-less era, we still crank out a magazine every week, break news, win awards, have an editing process that improves the quality, run a 24/7 website, feature some dazzlingly good writing. We do podcasts and launch SI Films and projects like Peter King’s MMQB site. We have more diverse staff—gender, ethnicity, age, but also sensibility and writing styles—than when you and I started. Sure, there are swings and misses. And of course there are times when it’s a pity we don’t have the resources that we had in the 90s. And, still, we’re doing independent journalism we can be proud of. In a weird way, to me, the job is as gratifying now as it was in the flush times.

J.P.: I’ve always admired your ability to get people to open up. Seriously—you’re really good at it. So … how? What are the keys to interviewing people? How do you make subjects feel comfortable and relaxed?

J.W.: Hey thanks. Seriously. I believe Verducci once made a similar point to you and I think it’s really instructive. Sometimes just making small talk—without scribbling notes or thrusting a recording device against an athlete’s chin—goes a long way. Same for asking a question you know they’ve never been asked before. It’s a luxury, I realize. For a Sports Illustrated feature you might have a few days in town and a chance to build rapport that others may not. But these post-game scrums are so unappealing and so not conducive to rapport

J.P.: Your main sport has been tennis, and you’ve probably covered Venus and Serena as much as anyone out there. This might sound naïve and will definitely sound simplistic—but are they likeable? Are they nice? Has fame changed them, in the way you and I have seen so many athletes go from modest to dickish? Or are they basically the same women they were when you met them X years ago?

J.W.: Tennis is my guilty pleasure. I have no delusions about its status as a niche sport—Wimbledon ratings will pale in comparison to an NFL preseason game—but the flip side is that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to cover a sport that’s close-knit (and so congenitally crazy). Maybe 18 months ago, I wanted to do a long sit-down with Roger Federer, the greatest player of all time. The response: “Okay, sure, what time’s good for you?” No ground rules. No demands to reference a charitable foundation. No minder sitting in on the interview. Maybe because there are no home teams, it’s this global sport with this family environment.

All that said … well, where to begin with the Williams sisters? For one, my time covering tennis corresponds almost exactly with their emergence, so I feel this real kinship. I covered them when they were this curiosity with an outrageous dad. When they became No.1. When they had their assorted setbacks. When they became these dignified figures playing deep into their 30s. In different ways, they’ve both chosen to be fairly opaque and not put themselves up for public dissection. I totally respect that. We’ve always been cordial. Venus once kindly agreed to be a guest for a writing class I taught. But even after all these years, I wouldn’t say I know them particularly well. Are they the same as they were as teenagers? No. But we all evolve. Three random points: A) I maintain this is still one of the great underrated stories in sports. This is the equivalent of LeBron James having a brother who is the second-best NBA player of the last 20 years. B) Close as they are, they are strikingly, determinedly different people. Once, they were conflated as the Williams sisters. No more. C) Their pressures and burdens and expectations are so different from those of other tennis players they must be held to a different standard.

With Tommy Hearns and the late Emanuel Steward

With Tommy Hearns and the late Emanuel Steward

J.P.: Is it OK to be a sports journalist and a fan? Can you root for the Mets? Can, say, Lee Jenkins root for the Chargers? Is that allowed? Are there limits? And have the expectations changed through the years?

J.W.: There is of course the no-cheering-in-the-press-box dictum. We root for the stories, not for teams/players. But I feel like A) objectivity is a false god. B) There’s an unofficial rule that you get you one team you can hang onto and call your own. It has the effect of keeping your fan sensibilities intact and acting as a safeguard to keep the sports media type from becoming entirely jaded and neutral.

It helps to be up front about it. It helps if the team is not from a sport you cover regularly. If it is a long-suffering franchise (my Indiana Pacers; Lee’s Chargers; Grant’s Royals—at least before 2014) so much the better. But put it this way: for all that plagues sports media and for all the ethical questions and challenging, this one doesn’t rank high with me.

J.P.: What’s the book-writing process for you? I know you dig writing in the local YMCA. But, soup to nuts, how do you go about it? What’s the process?

J.W.: Now that I’m no longer writing full-time, sadly, it’s less a process than just a matter of banging away when I have a block of free time. I do love writing at my local YMCA—the most populist place you’ll find in Greenwich Village. (The wifi is dodgy which, of course, is a disguised blessing.) Macro process? I get an idea. Then I use an old trick Scott Price once taught me and ask myself: “If I saw this book out there and it was written by someone else, would it upset me?” If the answer is yes, I poke around with some reporting, make sure it can sustain itself for 90,000 words (or double that if I am Jeff Pearlman) and then crank out a proposal.

I tend to work pretty fast and one reason is that I write as I go. For my first book, I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. I figured I’d spend X months on the reporting phase and block off three months to write 1,000 words each day. What you realize is that the memory fades and trying to recreate interviews and reread notes months later is a fools errand. So when I have an interview or witness a scene or just have an idea, I try to force myself to stay up late and put pen to paper. You can always go back and sharpen the prose. But waiting months to try to write about a conversation/event is a mistake. “Pen to paper” is a horrible cliché, but I mean it literally. Another one of mine habits is to write out every paragraph by hand in a notebook—each graf gets its own page—and then when I fire up the laptop, I at least have a plan and am not staring at the blank screen.

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• Why don’t you use Lewis Wertheim as a byline?: Never liked my name, Lewis. All the more so when I’m about to start middle school (in the sensitivity hotbed that is southern Indiana), “Revenge of the Nerds” comes out and the lead character’s name is Lewis. Even spelled the same way.

Me: “I hate my name.”

Parents: “Too bad. When you leave home and get to college, call yourself whatever you want. Use your middle name. See if we care.”

Me, first day of college: “Hi, I’m Jon Wertheim.”

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Keith Smart, Peter Cetera, Dairy Queen, Finland, Jeb Bush, lamb kabob, Steve DeBerg, “Word Freak,” Plato, Olive Garden, Mo Cheeks: Dairy Queen, hands down. Then? Keith Smart, lamb kabob, Word Freak, Finland, Mo Cheeks (underrated player; overrated coach), Steve DeBerg, Olive Garden, Peter Cetera. (Jeb Bush, I find deeply sympathetic these days. You see him saying to himself, “Wait, I was governor of a state with a GNP bigger than Saudi Arabia’s; and I’ve been rendered irrelevant by this carnival barker?”)

• Three memories from your first date with your wife: Philadelphia, fall of 1994. Nothing says “romance” like the 76ers’ home opener at The Spectrum. Three things? Shawn Bradley. Zero points. Six fouls. The rest, as they say …

• One question you would ask Taylor Dayne were she here right now?: To what extent do feel responsible for the fact that two of every five friends my kids bring home appear to be named Taylor?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Never. But I was flying back from Atlanta recently and the woman next me announced that she hates flying. Fair enough. We hit minor turbulence. She closes her eyes, bites her tongue and grasps my hand. For a solid twenty minutes, I am holding hands with a stranger. Eventually she releases. No “thanks” or sheepish “sorry” much less “let me buy you a gift from Skymall.” Plane lands and she departs as if we’ve never had an interaction.

• You could make the argument my kids don’t exist if we never meet. So, eh, what do I owe you?: Dairy Queen.

• Best joke you know: “I like foosball. It’s the perfect combination of soccer and shish kabob.” — Mitch Hedberg.

• Five greatest female Jewish sports journalists of your lifetime: My inner pr department is telling me to duck this one for fear I’ll omit someone obvious, make a false assumption, etc. Jane Leavy, Andrea Kremer, Maggie Gray, Emily Kaplan, Mary Carillo Stein.

• If you played John McEnroe in tennis right now, and he has a patch over his left eye, what’s the final score?: 0-6, 0-6

• Your all-time favorite book …: Fiction: “The Brothers K” by David James Duncan. Non-fiction: “Breaks of the Game” by David Halberstam.

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Maggie McNeill

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I had never heard of Maggie McNeill before a week or so ago when, in the aftermath of my ridiculously stupid comment about Fox News reporters dressing like hookers, she fired off one of the most surprising Tweets of my life on the information superhighway.

Like many, Maggie was insulted by my words. But instead of wondering how I could dare compare the women of Fox News to hookers, she, um, sorta wanted to know why I’d compare hookers to the women of Fox News. Or, really, why I chose to use a cliched insult to degrade female sex workers.

So, well, that was a first.

Then I saw Maggie had a website—an amazing, detailed, beautifully written website about the ups and downs, highs and lows of a prostitute’s life. I sat there reading for, oh, an hour or so. And not because of the sex or pictures. Nope, it was simply a fascinating glance into a world (and profession) I knew little about. It also happened to be delivered by a prostitute who received her BA in English from the University of New Orleans in 1987 and her MLIS from Louisiana State University six years later. Having worked as an underpaid librarian post-degree, Maggie—in need of money—turned to stripping, then to life as a call girl and madam.

She’s never looked back.

Here, the 243rd Quaz takes you inside her life and inside her bedroom. She hates toe cheese, has never heard of Todd Hundley and considers monogamy an ideal lacking ideal. You can follower her on Twitter here, and visit her website, The Honest Courtesan, here.

Maggie McNeill, welcome to the world of the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Maggie, so I’m psyched you’re here, and I wanna start with a question I’ve never asked anyone before: So you reached out to me, via Twitter, after I ripped some Fox News female on-air people as dressing like “hookers.” I meant that they were dressed inappropriately scantily; that the network tries selling sex via women employees. I’m curious why this bothered/offended you. Because, as a prostitute, don’t you dress as such as part of the gig? I’m NOT mocking—genuinely interested.

MAGGIE MCNEILL: Well, I just found it annoying because I’m rather tired of my profession being used as the go-to insult for anyone female. We’re portrayed as stupid, ignorant, classless, tasteless, vulgar and above all, expendable. We’re one of the few minority groups it’s still considered PC to insult and use as the butt of jokes, including jokes in which we’re subjected to violence such as rape or murder; a few years ago an Obama administration crony even thought it was cool to make a joke at an official White House function about a prostitute being gang-raped by prisoners, and everybody laughed. Hahahaha! So funny! In truth, the great majority of my friends are whores, and they are among the smartest, wisest, most generous, most loyal, most discreet and most poised women you’d ever hope to meet. As for dress, most of the whores I know dress attractively but modestly unless they’re A) receiving a client at their own incall space, and B) he specifically requested otherwise. Most women going to clubs dress more “sluttily” than the actual pros I know do. It’s true that some street workers dress in a more overtly “sexy” manner to attract attention (that’s called “advertising”), but even that is less true than it used to be due to increased police harassment. And besides, street workers are only about 10% or so of all sex workers; the majority are internet escorts now. Even in pre-Internet days, street workers were always just a very visible minority.

J.P.: How does this work? What I mean is, someone calls you. They want an experience. Where does it go from there? And what if they show up drunk? Or they’re just disgusting—I dunno, tons of acne, or really bad tuna breath?

M.M.: When someone calls me (or more often, emails me) I first ask him if he’s seen my website because the answers to a lot of questions he might ask are there, including my prices. If he’s smart, he’ll use the booking form I have on the site, because that shows he’s paying attention to my ad copy and is willing to follow instructions (which lets me know he’ll probably respect my wishes in session as well). I ask gentlemen who approach me for references, meaning I want the names and email addresses and/or phone numbers of other ladies he’s seen so I can call and ask them what he was like – is he nice and respectful, or will he try to push my boundaries? Is he generous, or will he try to haggle? Is he prompt, hard to deal with, courteous, rough, or what? Most importantly, is he a cop? Because the majority of the danger in my line of work isn’t from clients, good or bad; it’s from cops, who even when they don’t arrest and cage us may rape, rob or extort us, or worse. Most normal guys try to be on their best behavior when visiting sex workers because they know we’ll give them bad references if they aren’t. As for stuff like poor hygiene, that is unpleasant when it happens and I’d definitely mention it if another lady called me for a referral, but it isn’t that common and it isn’t really as repulsive as bad manners, rudeness, roughness, cheapness, etc.

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J.P.: On your website you write, “Somehow, neither my mother nor the nuns who taught me ever managed to instill in this little Catholic girl any sense that sex is dirty, bad, wrong or otherwise distasteful, and without that unhealthy concept imbedded in one’s psyche prostitution is no different from any other service one might perform for hire.” And it’s a riveting sentence, because it flies in the face of what we’re told repeatedly. So do you think people misunderstand prostitution, or that we—as a people—have a wrongheaded take on what sex is and is supposed to be?

M.M.: Both. People have really dumb, childish, fantastical ideas about sex; they think it’s magical or sacred or whatever, because in ancient times religion larded it with all this mumbo-jumbo and people still haven’t let go of that, even if they’re irreligious or even atheists. And starting about 200 years ago (after the French Revolution), secular governments started horning in on the act as well, and now it’s embedded in the public consciousness that government “should” or even “has to” interfere in private sexual behavior, in the name of “regulation” or “order” or “public decency” or some other bullshit. Nurses clean shit off of bedridden patients’ bottoms, doctors probe their genitalia, masseuses put their hands all over people’s bodies, day-care workers tend to the care of their children. Yet nobody thinks any of these extremely intimate activities needs to be banned, and nobody pretends that nurses must be coerced into nursing. Furthermore, it’s A-OK with a lot of the anti-prostitution crowd if a woman screws dozens or hundreds of strangers, as long as she claims she did it for “pleasure”; it only becomes a problem in these fanatics’ minds if she actually gains a concrete outcome from it.

J.P.: You’re married. I’m surprised by this. I’m not saying I should be, but I am. So how does that work, emotionally? I would not be comfortable with my wife having sex with other guys. So, I guess, how did you meet your husband? How did you come to an understanding? What are the complexities, complications?

M.M.: Actually, we’re not married any more; we amicably divorced last year. It had nothing to do with my work; in fact, we got along better when I was working than after I retired. I’m just a very intense person, and not easy to live with, but as long as we live apart we get along wonderfully. We still talk several times a week and he’s coming to visit me in a few months. He was a client when we met, and things just went from there; we were together for 14 years in all, though we were estranged for the last few. I think the best way for you to understand his feelings would be for you to read an interview with him I published five years ago, but the short version is that he understands that my work is just that—work—and that my clients pose no greater threat to my relationships than they would if I did any other job. If someone can’t wrap his or her brain around that—and certainly not everyone can—it’s best they don’t even THINK about dating a sex worker, except professionally of course.

J.P.: You’re an absolutely beautiful writer, which makes me even more fascinated by your background. So … what’s your background? How did this happen? Soup to nuts? I know you’re a call girl, I know you worked as a stripper. But how did this happen?

M.M.: I’ve always had a very pragmatic view of sex; it’s always been a thing I used to obtain other things I wanted. Some of those things include intimacy, fun, adventure, money, social clout, information, and assistance … I use it to show gratitude or empathy, to help friends, even to manipulate people (but never for evil purposes; I’m actually very moral and would never harm anyone except in self-defense). I took money for sex casually and sporadically from 1985 until about ’87, and when my first divorce in ’95 left me with about $90,000 of bills on a $24,000 librarian’s salary, it didn’t require any huge paradigm shift for me to go back to my old standby, trading sex. The only reason it took me a couple of years (I started stripping in September of ‘97) to get around to it was that my first husband was emotionally abusive, and my self-esteem was really screwed up for a while. It took me that long to realize that I was still hot enough to make a living by my sex appeal.

J.P.: One of your posts contains a really loaded point: “The typical black man seems to believe that the point of intercourse is to damage a woman’s sexual equipment as much as possible.” I would think one’s approach to sex would be more based on, oh, geography, parents, what you’ve seen in your personal life. So why do you think black men, as a general rule, behave in a certain way? And do white men? Asians? Does it apply, in one way or another, to all groups?

M.M.: *Sigh* Every writer, especially when first starting out, writes a few things that, on looking back, cause her to say something like “Was I smoking crack when I wrote that?” In fact, there are a LOT of things I wrote my first year that make me feel that way. However, I’m a big believer in transparency; before the Internet, one couldn’t just “un-publish” embarrassing articles, and I don’t think it’s ethical or even wise to try that now just because one can. You can’t un-ring a bell, and you can’t unsay hurtful things, and to attempt to do so by shoving mistakes – even ugly ones – down the memory hole is to attempt to rewrite the past, a favorite pastime of censors and tyrants through the ages. I’m a real, flawed human being, and though I’m not a racist or any other flavor of bigot sometimes things don’t really come out like I wanted them to. The post to which you refer is hands-down my most controversial; there are a lot of people who have called me a racist and worse because of it. However, I’ve also received a lot of mail from black men thanking me for explaining it, even if they sometimes (rightfully) chastise me for the crappy, sloppy, careless, insensitive, amateurish, assholish, and unnecessarily hurtful way I expressed it. So I really prefer not to opine any more on the subject; anything I say would probably be viewed in the worst possible light, and I don’t wish to inadvertently cause any more hurt than I already have.

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J.P.: Guys are assholes. It’s been proven time after time. I’m guessing—in your work—you see men often at their worst. What does that look like? And do you also see men at their best? And what does that look like?

M.M.: I do indeed see men at their best and worst. At their worst, they’re vicious, barely-human thugs who collect in packs to deceive, rape, rob, threaten, brutalize, cage and destroy the lives of women they’ve never met before, rationalizing their atrocities with excuses like “the law.” “decency” and, worst of all, service to an “authority” who pretends to know better than me what I should and shouldn’t do with my own body and my own life. At their best, they are good, warm, kind, generous, tender and loving to women they don’t really know, have nothing to gain from, and may never meet again, for no reason other than basic human goodness.

J.P.: Is it weird, or uncomfortable, or … anything, when married men sleep with you? Obviously you’re doing nothing wrong, but … I dunno. Do you/did you ever feel bad? And, along those lines, you write a lot about guilt and repression. Do you have clients who cum and are immediately overecome (no pun intended) by guilt? Is that annoying, depressing, neither? Do they expect you to then play therapist?

M.M.: The majority of adult men I’ve been to bed with, from the age of 15 until now, have been married; I’d say at least two-thirds of them, maybe more. It’s no more weird or uncomfortable to me than any other fact of life; in fact, whores save far more marriages than we damage. Humans aren’t designed for monogamy; that’s the invention of agricultural societies with a vested interest in knowing whose kids are whose. It can’t work in the form society pretends it must, which is why whores are necessary; since we aren’t interested in married men except as sources of income, we don’t pose any threat to their wives the way a mistress might. Prostitution is the secret ingredient that makes monogamy possible, which means it isn’t hyperbole to say we make Western civilization possible. The ancients understood that; it’s the reason that in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest surviving story, it is a prostitute who tames the wild man Enkidu, enabling him to live in civilized society.

To answer the second part of your question: it’s not at all unusual that guys are overcome by guilt or shame as soon as they climax; it’s certainly not a majority or even a substantial minority, but we all see that from time to time. Usually when they’re like that they get quiet and either rush out the door or shoo the lady out (depending on whether it’s her place or his) within a few minutes. It’s not annoying except in the rare case when the feeling of tension is palpable, and even then that vanishes as soon as either he or I goes.

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J.P.: Might sound weird, but what are the keys to absolutely great sex? I feel like most of us don’t know, and maybe you do.

M.M.: The most important key to being a great lover (which does not guarantee great sex) is paying attention. When having sex with your partner, pay close attention to his or her reactions: if there is none, try something else; if the reaction seems negative, stop what you’re doing immediately; if the reaction seems positive, keep doing more of that. It may seem silly, but you’d be surprised how few people actually do it. Another important key is to listen and keep an open mind; a lot of what holds people back from really great sex is shame and fear of the partner’s reaction. When you’ve got that stuff on your mind you can’t relax, and if you can’t relax you can’t surrender to the experience. When two people trust each other enough to share what they want without fear of shaming or rejection, there’s a lot better chance for really good, mutually-fulfilling sex.

J.P.: What’s the money story from your career? Best story you feel OK telling …

M.M.: I think the most interesting story, with the most complex implications, happened soon after Hurricane Katrina. I was the only escort in town for over two months, so I was extremely busy, yet I didn’t have much more sex than usual. Why? Because a lot of them just wanted company. I remember one in particular; he was in charge of a crew that was literally pulling bodies from the wreckage, and he was considerably stressed (as I’m sure you can imagine). I got undressed and lay down beside him, but when I went to start undressing him he stopped me and said, “No, I don’t want that.” I looked at him quizzically, and he explained that he was married and didn’t want to cheat on his wife, but said “I see so much ugliness every day, I just want to look at something beautiful for a while.” It struck me that it was a terrible shame that his wife could never be told of this demonstration of his loyalty, because instead of cherishing that he was only looking and cuddling when he could’ve had sex, she probably would’ve been angry or hurt that he had called me at all. Which is … spectacularly dumb, but typical. It also demonstrates the falsity of the evil lies spread by prohibitionists, who pretend that our clients are predatory, abusive monsters looking for warm holes to penetrate; this sweet, gentle, loyal man was in pain, and he wanted the magic of simple human contact to assuage that hurt. And that sort of client is far closer to the norm than the kind of misogynistic jerk who populates prohibitionist propaganda.

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• Why Maggie McNeill? How’d you pick the name?: ”Maggie” was my childhood nickname, from my middle name (some friends still used it into my early twenties). “McNeill” is my mother’s maiden name.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Abigail Van Buren, Todd Hundley, “Thelma & Louise,” tomato soup, Arsenio Hall, July 4, Mark Twain, the Bible, nipple rings, the two-point conversion, Tito Jackson: I had to look up “Todd Hundley” and “two-point conversion.” Sports are not my thing, I’m afraid. So … tomato soup, Mark Twain, the Bible, July 4th, nipple rings, Thelma & Louise, Tito Jackson, Abigail Van Buren, Arsenio Hall, Todd Hundley, the two-point conversion

• Your 30-word take on Pretty Woman: Prohibitionists whine that it’s unrealistic because Vivian isn’t a pimped drug addict. IOW, it follows Hollywood’s unrealistic stereotypes rather than theirs. A Disney romantic comedy, and they expect cinema verite?

• One question you would ask Ted Cruz were he here right now?: “How much longer do you think the American people will buy the notion that the Republicans and Democrats are substantially different?”

• Bigger turn off—a chronically dripping nose or toe cheese?: Toe cheese. No contest.

• Five sexiest movies you’ve ever seen?: Off the top of my head, and may be different tomorrow: Story of O, Eyes Wide Shut, Secretary, The Hunger, The Black Cat (1934). Don’t try to understand that last one; it’s a weird horror-fetishistic thing I have.

• Someone farts during sex—what usually happens immediately afterward? Ignore, laugh, make a grossed-out face?: Professional sex: ignore. Non-professional sex with a man: grossed-out face. Non-professional sex with a woman: laugh.

• Three memories from your first-ever date?: I honestly can’t remember my first official “date”, so here are three memories from my first sex: It was on my 15th birthday (Halloween, 1981); he was an 18-year-old LSU freshman who is now a prominent journalist; it was at a friend’s house, in her bed, while my chaperon had gone to pick up a girl who didn’t have a ride to the party.

• Am I allowed to say something if I’m working in a coffee shop and someone’s talking loudly on his/her phone? Or is that their right and I need to shut up?:  If you’re working there, it’s probably wisest to defer to your boss unless you don’t mind losing your job on principle. But if you’re a fellow customer, hell yeah say something.

• Do you believe in monogamy at all? Like, does it have its place? Or is it just some implemented idea from long ago that sucks?: Well, I think a kind of monogamy can work for some people, though they both need to consider what they might do if they catch the other cheating. And if they’re going to go outside without permission, it should be with a pro.

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Marquis Daniels

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 8.10.09 PMI’m a fan of transitions.

I don’t mean literary transitions, though those are fine. No, I mean life transitions—the moving from here to there; from there to here. I like that Mookie Wilson went from stealing bases to driving a truck. I like that Jamie Walters (90210 dude) is now a firefighter. On and on, I’m an absolute sucker for these things.

Take, for example, today’s 242nd Quaz …

Before he was the rapper known as Q6, Marquis Daniels was a 10-year NBA veteran; a sinewy slasher and ball hawk who went undrafted out of Auburn in 2003 and ultimately became a top-shelf professional. Daniels bounced around the league a bit (Mavericks to Pacers, Pacers to Celtics, Celtics to Bucks) before retiring in 2013 to focus on hip-hop.

But, as he’s learned, shedding one’s skin isn’t so easy. Q6 is a talented lyricist who has (professionally) tried to escape from Marquis Daniels’ shadow.

There’s rap.

There’s basketball.

He excels at both.

One can visit Q6’s YouTube world here, follow him on Twitter here and read up on Daniels’ hoops career here.

Welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Marquis, I wanna open with a question that might sound weird, might not. Hard to tell. So I live in Southern California, a part of the country where parents REALLY push their kids into sports. You sorta get the idea they desperately want their children to become pro athletes, because they see it as this dream existence of money and fame and happiness. My question for you, having played 10 NBA seasons—is pro sports a dream existence? Does it live up to the hype? Or are there things we, as a people, don’t see and/or understand?

MARQUIS DANIELS.: Pro sports is definitely a dream existence for any kid who grew up playing and watching sports daily, especially for me it was part of my diet. Now does it live up to the hype? It does, but there are several cons that come with it all. But to be a professional you have to be able to take the good with the bad. As a professional we always have to seem like we’re happy but that’s not always the case. Regardless of it all, you have to make the fans feel good and let them know you appreciate them.

J.P.: I remember, years ago, writing about a former NFL halfback named James Allen who tried transitioning to a hip-hop career with limited success. One of the big issues, as I recall, is the unwillingness of people to see him as something other than an athlete. Have you faced this, too? Is it a challenge? And how do you do it?

M.D.: Of course. That’s why I go by the name Q6 instead of my name. As you know, they will automatically say, “Here’s another athlete trying to rap,” which I expect from the media and fans. Any type of negativity is good for their ratings, so it’s to be expected. But I go by Q6 so when you hear my music, you judge it off of music and not my name.

J.P.: Keep It Solid—great song. Seriously love it. Everything about it. So, using it as an example, what’s the process for you? Like, where did the idea for the song come from? How do you go about writing lyrics? Do you have the beat in your head first? And when do you know a song is complete?

M.D.: I don’t write my music, so I kinda go in the studio and play a beat and just vibe to it and try and speak on things I have either seen, done or been through. And once the engineer puts his touch on it the song is pretty much completed.

J.P.: So I’m fascinated by something: You’re the kid in Orlando, great player, Edgewater High, and then—senior year—you’re off to Mr. Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C. How does this happen? Is it all about a school building a basketball power? Did you even want to leave home?

M.D.: I was on spring break my junior year in high school. I come home one day and my mom had my bags packed. I asked her where I was going and she said, “You’re getting the outta here.” Ha. I mean, it was the best thing for me because I was doing right school wise.

Did you even want to leave home? I definitely didn’t wanna leave home but my mom made a decision that needed to be made and I’m forever grateful she did.

J.P.: On July 12, 2006, you were traded from Dallas to Indiana for Austin Croshere. It was the first time you’d been traded. I wonder what this felt like? How’d you find out? Can you see it as someone wanting you (good), or as someone discarding you (bad)? And how did you adjust from exciting Dallas to, eh, Indianapolis?

M.D.: I was ready for the trade. I told my agent I needed a new scene and a fresh start, but Dallas is my second home. The fans and community there are both amazing.

It was a good thing, due to the fact that I was able to go somewhere and be a part of a team that wanted me and I felt wanted so I didn’t view it as a negative.

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J.P.: According to a Wikipedia entry, you have a Bible verse tattooed across your chest, and it’s the verse you’d read to your paralyzed grandmother. True? Not true? And, if true, who was your grandma, what do you recall of her, why/when would you read to her?

M.D.: The Bible verse is true, but my grandmother isn’t paralyzed. She has really bad cataracts and my grandfather was blind but he was the pastor at the church in Jennings, Florida. My “Bigma,” as I call her, has always been there for me no matter what, I have two wonderful grandmothers, but the one we are referring to now is my Bigma and she is a spiritual warrior, always praying to keep the family together. The Bible verse I have is Psalms 91—she told me it’s my 911 for whenever I need guidance.

J.P.: Last year you talked about wanting to possibly become an NBA coach. A. True? B. Why? C. Do you think guys who played in the NBA are better coaches than guys who didn’t? D. Best coach you played for?

M.D.: Yes, I would love a chance at coaching or possibly scouting. I think more players should be more involved in the game as coaches, scouts or whatever. It’s only right. We basically have been playing this game all of our lives. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily say that former players are better coaches. It’s not always the case!

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

M.D.: I don’t view life on a negative aspect so any day above ground is a blessed day for me!

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J.P.: Does it matter if teammates like one another? Like, on the teams you played for, were happier locker rooms better units? Did you ever hate a teammate? Teammates? Does it matter?

M.D.: It helps if teammates like one another, but as long as it doesn’t affect chemistry on the basketball court and during games, who cares? That’s just my opinion. I’ve never hated a teammate—when you’re real and solid you’re gonna agree and disagree with teammates. That’s just life. And as competitive as the sport is, there are gonna be times you have run-ins with one another.

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• Five greatest rappers of your lifetime: 2Pac, Wayne, Andre 3000, Biggie and Scarface. But that’s a tough question because you have Drake, Future and Fabolous—also good artists.

• Three non-Disney reasons one should make Orlando his/her next vacation destination?: The weather, the culture, and, of course, the beautiful women.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jay Electronica, Josh Howard, Cindy Brady, Carson Daly, professional golf, the smell of your socks, Popeye, Sylvester Stallone, Wilson Phillips, Carmelo Anthony, Pizza Hut: 1. Josh Howard, 2. Sylvester Stallone; 3. Popeye; 4. Carmelo Anthony; 5. Jay Electronica; 6. Carson Daly; 7. Cindy Brady; 8. the smell of your socks; 9. Wilson Phillips; 10. Pizza Hut.

• The world needs to know: What was it like playing with Troy Murphy?: My main man Murph! Great teammate, good friend, awesome on and off the court.

• Coolest NBA city to visit? Worst?: Toronto—the best. The worst? I’d have to go with Salt Lake City.

• The next president will be …: Hillary Clinton

• Best lyric you’ve ever written: As of now it would have to be 2 am in Orlando.

• Would you rather have an extra $500,000 or the power to never have to go to the bathroom again?: Gimme the extra $500,000 lol.

• One question you would ask John Denver were he here right now?: What inspired him to make the music he made and did he ever think it would be classic?

Friend of mine wrote this song to help promote one of my books. Thoughts?: Nice.