Serious journalism aside -- tucked somewhere near "Gigli," "Boy Meets Boy" and my scrotum -- I am painfully, dutifully and ridiculously in love with Michael Musto. If the name doesn't ring a bell, the hair will: A sort of Kid 'n Play wedge of curls resting atop a talking, bespectacled head of infinite wisdom for the gossip hungry and reasonably intelligent.
OK, nothing on E! is for the reasonably intelligent. Anyway, seeing as we all need crack every now and then, self-proclaimed "sound bite whore" Musto delivers the goods on call -- to E!, VH-1, Bravo and whatever other outlet there may be for hallucinogenic celebrity pathos. He also, more importantly, mans the dish wash for seminal New York weekly, The Village Voice, wherein he bumps into, and spills drinks on, every Broadway Bettie, celebutante and beefcake the meatpacking district can host. He's a lot like me, really. Except, genuinely employed and far better.
"How do you do it," I gush to his office, where he actually has a desk.
"It's more about what I do at night," he eats to the beat. "My job really starts at about 6 o'clock when I start heading out to cover whatever crazy stuff is going on, and then I usually cannot wait to run home and start typing it all up into my computer."
"Especially like when I saw "Gigli" or whatever the fuck -- Gayly, whatever -- the whole time my mind was racing."
"The critic from the Times ran out in the middle. There was a lot of Ã?pussy' talk, but I stuck it out 'til the end," he says "pussy," which J-Lo refers to as "turkey." Ew. "Y'know, it's right up there with 'Crossroads.' I didn't mind the vulgarity; I like vulgarity."
"Seems like a bit of a vanity exercise for couples who do yoga," I unwisely Roger Ebert. "Like 'Swept Away.'"
"I actually liked 'Swept Away,'" he gets into the Gap. "But let's not get into that. They might lock me up."
Click. "So how does a room react to you, y'know, like at parties and stuff," I long for a career.
"Half the room runs towards me and the other half runs away. That's a pretty good ratio, especially if the people running away are publicists," he Lizzie Grubmans. "A lot of people either on the way up, or on the way down -- sort of like a 'Hollywood Squares'-type of celebrity -- need the column, so they come towards me giving me quotable quotes and lavishing me with praise. Anybody that's already established runs to the hills, because they don't want any part of me."
"It must be hard to meet people."
"Sometimes they recognize you from TV and that makes it easier. The publicist will say Ã?Get away,' but then the celebrity will say, Ã?Oh, I've seen you on TV. Come talk to me.' So that breaks down walls."
Mmm, sugar walls. "So how long have you been being me?"
"And I'm only 23!"
Me too! Anyway, the conversation quickly drifts to dirt, as that's what I'm most comfortable with and most typically seen bathing in. I query as to whether there are things Mr. Musto won't print, regarding frosted noses or painful falls.
"There's nothing that I have actually seen that I wouldn't include. But, yeah I don't generally report on illness stuff, unless there's a point to it," he points to it. "Also, of course, we don't put anything that's libelous, because I have a libel lawyer that goes through every word of the column."
I want one. "So you're on the commercial for this week's E! True Hollywood Story regarding 'Gigli' gigolo, Ben Affleck, and the now irrelevant Matt Damon. You must be proud."
"Oh yeah, very proud."
"What's the dish," I wash.
"It's actually reverse dirt. Usually I'm the first one to say everybody's gay."
"I'm mister outing, mister gaydar."
"In this case, I think everybody wants them to be gay. But I sort of think, maybe they're straight."
Then I start to second guess myself. My gaydar hasn't worked for years.
"Yeah, I'm interviewing you about a commercial for a show in which you talk about somebody else -- there must be some rule against this," I pitch.
"There are no rules."
Musto also figures heavily into the Michael Aleg mythology, characterized by a series of limbs, a box and well, Ketamine. With the "Party Monster" party imminent, I wonder whether it's something he would care to deal with. He was friends with Aleg, after all. Although, strictly in that journalist/hype idiom.
"It's weird for me, and I don't know if I'll even be able to look at it, because I was there."
"So you did it?"
"Are you implicating me?"
"Yeah. Michael Musto caused Angel's death. I'm gonna get a sound bite on E! and say that you caused the whole thing."
"I always had a double edge about it," he clarifies. "One of the first things that I wrote compared him to Charles Manson."
Weird. And Marilyn Manson's in the movie. And she was his wife, right? Oh. "You know, I call myself the Michael Musto of Orlando," I reach for a drink.
"It gets you nowhere here."
"Do you use your power selfishly?" I use my power selfishly.
"Yeah, totally. It's a cathartic experience. You know, somebody once said to me, Ã?You mustn't need therapy; you use your column.' I think mixing up the personal stuff kind of works for me. It's La Dolce Musto, my own bird's eye view of what's going on."
"Ever get back at a boyfriend?" I get back at a boyfriend.
"Oh yeah. I'm mad at the world, and I get back at everybody."
I love Michael Musto.