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Hitting the Streets with Janeane Garofalo

By Thom Fowler
Posted 12/16/99 16:53:00

Since nobody's agent ever returns my calls because of my paltry "press" association, I found a way around that. In the spirit of tabloid exploitation I offer you this interview with Janeane Garofalo.

We met up with Janeane at a cafe on 13th street in Manhatten. The waitress seated us at the table next to her where she was having red wine and cigarettes with a friend of hers. My right ear was closest to her end of the conversation. As involved as I was with my own pow-wow I couldn't help but give a listen to what she was talking about.

ME: (to my friend, the music major at NYU) So whats the difference between a toccata and a fugue?

JANEANE: (to her friend) I wish I could have more intellectual conversations. I seem to be the one who always initiates them.

ME: (in my head) Heeeey. I'm intellectual. I volunteer. Go ahead, honey, bring up a challenging topic and get your daily recommended allowance of brainfood.

MICHAL: Blah Blah Blah repeating segments blah blah blah changing scales

ME: (to my people) Does anyone have anymore cigarettes?

THEM: No

ME: (in my head) Janeane is smoking! I smell an opportunity. (Turning slighly to my right) Do you have a cigarette?

Her friend immediately steps in to buffer the situation. Oh no. plebes. must protect the princess.

But Janeane also reached for her pack and they offered me one simultaneously. Not wanting to offend anyone, I took them both. After all, we were a table full of smokers and no cigarettes. Janeane lowered her gaze and let her pupils slide past the edge of the frames of her glasses to meet my eyes momentarily. It was one of those mundane moments I suppose you don't get to experience very often when strangers know your name.

I smiled at her like this was a private joke we were sharing. Me, innocently asking a stranger for a cigarette. Her, being a part of the flow of the street. I cringed a little when I asked Michal which cigarette he wanted to smoke and he grabbed for the one from Janeane's pack. And the whole time he sat there smoking it and carrying on about how he was smoking a famous person's cigarette. And I said, "No, you are smoking a Marlboro light." But he didn't care. He didn't want to play along.

I turned back to my conversation and I catch another soundbyte from the other side of the table, "When I was filming Mystery Men."

As we were getting up to leave, I said to her, "It's too bad you don't have people to talk to about the things you want to talk about." But since I couldn't offer her any more than that, I continued on my way.

She and her friend left the cafe at the same time we did and while we hailed a cab, Janeane and her friend milled about seemingly directionless and I wanted to step back over and say, "okay, fine. we can meet for coffee while I'm in town." But that was probably not the direction she was looking for.

I went to New York in June because I had just been fired from my job in San Francisco for writing gay erotica at work. I was ready for anything to happen. And one of the entertainment personalities who I would actually like to meet ends up sitting right next to me and all I can think of as a flimsy entrance into her conversation is, "Do you have a cigarette." Other than that she was pretty down to earth and genuine. When a fan approached her and said "Before I leave I just want to tell you that I really admire your work", Janeane was gracious and said "Thanks. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate that." And I wanted to say "I really admire you." And she'd just think I was a crackhead and flee. So I had to play it cool. " C'mon Janeane, you know you want it. Yeah, baby, thats it. Talk to me. Let's make it happen."

I would like to think I was immune to getting caught up in the fantasy life of personality but I'm just as drawn to glimmers of myself in other people as anyone is and I have this thing about people my age and what they are doing. I can't really get into what someone 20 years into their career is all about, but I do get turned on by the life experience of people in my own generation. What happened to us? You think the boomers have a monopoly on navel gazing, think again.

Thats it. No juicy gossip. Just a fleeting moment in New York where anything can happen.

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