“I think Artie Lange will die soon.” Peter S. O’Connor, Jr.
I pulled my 1984 Volvo into my regular parking spot at The Albina Press. The side streets are usually lined with cars, and a lot of people have failed to recognize the designated parking spots in the adjacent parking lot. The leaves cover the blacktop, erasing any sign of white lines and designations. As usual, there is a car on either side of my spot guiding me to my west Volvo’s west facing home for the next hour.
Why am I mentioning this?
The routine goes as follows: Pull in, put car in park, switch off lights, pull e-brake (out of habit, regardless of hill or not), open door, close door, lock car, check trunk (sometimes I have to manually lock my trunk). This day was different from the rest.
I usually listen to Fresh Air on my way to class on Tuesdays. Same routine, just takes place in the Green Parking Lot of WSU. Terry Gross always has me writing down who her guests are so I can listen to the full interview when I get home in the evening. She has the amazing power of pulling information out of people. A book I always have handy, On Writing Well,’ by William Zinser, has a chapter about interviews and writing about people. Terry Gross is a text book example of following Zinser’s words.
Get people talking. Learn to ask questions that will elicit answers about what is most interesting or vivid in their lives. Nothing so animates writing (in this case radio) as someone telling what he thinks or what he does — in his own words.
His own words will always be better than your words, even if you are the most elegant stylist in the land. – William Zinser On Writing Well
Tuesday’s guest was Artie Lange. You may recognize him from the Howard Stern show or from his minor roles in big films like ‘Elf’ and ‘Old School.’ In his interview he talks of his childhood, his success, Howard Stern, his new book, and his drug problem. Instead of my typical routine, I sat in my car for the entirety of the 39-minute interview, progressively feeling sadness and sorrow for this man. His life is a mess.
Lange talks about rehab and being clean for a short while now. But you can hear in voice how much he truly misses the drugs; the drugs that he has learned to love and become so dependent on. Who cares right? It is his own fault. That is not the point. You can clearly hear Lange crying out for help. He knows he has a problem. He knows he has had this problem for years. He talks about making tens of thousands of dollars and how quickly he has thrown it all away on hookers and drugs. He talks about this in his stories and people find them so entertaining. Are we be entertained for the right reasons? Is it funny, and satisfying, to hear that someone with such opportunity is pissing his life away on drugs and sharing with us all the details? It is so sad.
It was the same week that I saw Artie Lange appear on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Not only did he sound like shit, he looked it too. He showed up in unshaven in sweats, a t-shirt, a tan colored denim jacket, and a baseball cap that did not fit his swollen head, hiding his eyes behind some Bono-esque sunglasses. He told Conan he had to wear the sunglasses because he was ‘So High.’ He wasn’t. Lange proceeded to talk nonsense and jibberish that might lead one to believe that he was on opiates and liquor. He talked of heroin and crappy vicodin. He made awful jokes and poked a truthful bit of fun at himself that truthfully was not that funny. The crowd loved it. You could see the sadness in Conan O’Brien’s face. O’Brien would laugh and try to go along with Lange. Lange has been a guest on the show endless times. It was as if O’Brien was wondering, “What happened to you?”
I may be wrong about all of this and pray to God that I am. Maybe Lange is truly working hard at his rehabilitation and his efforts to get clean and continue to be successful. Listen to the interview and watch his appearance on Conan. I’d really like to hear your thoughts.
Lange a few years back: Lange a few days back: