Last time we checked, writers got paid shit, and no one was reading anything besides US Weekly. Nevertheless, the honorable folks over at The Moth have set up a reading series so successful that they've managed to parlay it into a national tour, a mentoring program, and a functional charity. Their annual Moth Ball fundraiser is able to draw the likes of Moby, Malcolm Gladwell, Darren Aronofsky, and a guy who looks like Lex Luthor, not to mention our own Nikola Tamindzic, and Gabriel Delahaye. Journey through our action-packed photo gallery, then step after the jump to discover who prevailed when Gabe met Jonathan Ames on the manly field of arm-wrestling.
If the tenth circle of hell is a Pimps 'n' Ho's party, surely the ninth circle is a "Casino Night," which is what this evening is billed as. It's a tribute to the completely under-recognized Rat Pack, who only have a billion CDs, documentaries, and lonely man's boom-boom rooms dedicated to them. The invitation says "Dress for a night out at the Sands circa 1962." Because, you know, as long as it says you have to dress like a divorc who takes all his fashion tips from Leisure Suit Larry on the invitation, then it's not some kind of depressing faux-nostalgic tribute to something you wouldn't have been cool enough to have been a part of at the time it actually happened.
I have no idea what The Moth is, I had to look it up before I came down here. It's some kind of reading series? But they also have an outreach program for poor people? Moby is here? I don't know. They show this video, which is genuinely kind of heartbreaking — lots of clips of people talking about their children dying — but it's hard for me to get past the intro because the music in the background is seriously some 1994 techno shit that reminds me of the one rave I ever went to at Four Bears Waterpark in Utica, Michigan.
I'm seated at a press table, which is almost completely empty, while the rest of the room is packed; it's like the children's table at a key party. After dinner, Simon Doonan gets up and tells a story but I wasn't paying attention. Alex Balk shows up, presumably for the free alcohol, and we are chatting when a guy at the next table who is sitting with a woman in a wedding dress tells us to keep it down because he can't hear Simon Doonan. I do my best to lower my voice, only to look over a moment later and see the guy texting on his Blackberry. I decide that he and the Corpse Bride can go fuck themselves, and I write this in my notes.
Dominick Dunne gets up and tells a story about old Hollywood. I don't know if "tells" is the right word. Or "story" for that matter. He searches aimlessly for the remnants of an anecdote. It's like if your senile grandpa watched The Kid Stays in the Picture and tried to summarize the director's commentary right after waking up from a nap. At one point Dunne loses his place in the (for lack of a better word) narrative and people in the audience vainly shout out things to try and jog his memory. Nikola leans over and whispers, "Tomorrow, you're going to be an asshole to an old man." Nikola Tamindzic: photographer, prophet.
I'm going to skip over the part where Malcolm Gladwell tells a story about New Jersey because I have a rule, which is not to speak of, or to, anyone who hires Matt Groening as a personal stylist.
Finally Jonathan Ames takes the stage. His shtick is that he is going to arm wrestle members of the audience. He wrestles a bunch of girls and an old guy in an Army Commander's uniform that no one seems to know if it's for real, beating all of them. I take the stage, and soon I've got his wrist locked and his arm slightly bent, which is when Ames announces that if I cannot touch his arm to the table in 30 seconds we will call it a draw. In the audience I hear people screaming "Over the Top!" Ames starts ululating at me, but I give him my dead eyes. In the final seconds, I get Ames within a couple of inches of utter failure, but time is called and I can't quite pin him. Ames's forehead is covered in a lot of sweat for a draw. For the next hour, people come up to me, congratulating me for taking down the beast. It is not a draw, I am the victor. In particular, a number of older society women insist on telling me how well I did, how strong I am, that I am so great. I smile. I nod my head. Then I go home, and begin to capitalize on this success.