Last night, James Frey met Philly fameball Arthur Kade, a character so committed to perfectly attaining the state of "douchebag" (as originally defined) that some suspect he's a performance-art hoax. Frey investigated — and earned his Gawker special correspondent wings.
Anna David and I had a reading in Philadelphia. I had read about Arthur Kade here on Gawker and thought his website was one of the funniest, most absurd, most ridiculous things I had ever seen. I sent the link to Anna and told her I thought we should try to meet him while we were down there. She looked at it and thought the whole thing was either an elaborate art project of some kind, or just some guy fucking with people for laughs. We decided to try to find out.
I sent Arthur an email. I decided it would be best if I used Anna as bait. A legendary swordsman like Arthur Kade would be far more inclined to come see her than a bearded fool like me:
—-—- Forwarded Message
From: James Frey
Date: Wed, 03 Jun 2009 13:51:00 -0400
A woman named Anna David is reading from her new book tomorrow night is Philly. She's really hot and she's a huge fan of yours and she would love to meet you. Here's the info:
Thursday, June 4, 6:00 PM
BARNES & NOBLE
1805 Walnut ST
Philadelphia, PA 19103
And here's her website if you want to see her:
I got a response within ten minutes, it said: "How are you associated with her?"
I responded: "I'm friends with her."
He responded: "If you want to set something up i would prefer to speak to her or her camp directly."
I immediately forwarded this to Anna, and we laughed and laughed and laughed. Neither of us have camps, though we did both attend them as children. I told Anna she should write to him directly. She did.
Anna did in fact write Arthur, and he confirmed her identity. I told him I was reading with her and that I had written books, and also written and produced films (hoping the old Hollywood connection would also be something be enticing for him). For a good part of the train ride we talked about whether he would show up, and if he did, what he would be like. I expected him to be there, Anna did not. I expected him to a preening peacock, full of the same delusional bluster he displays on his site, and expected to be able to laugh at and fuck with him. Anna said that if he did actually show, she would be scared of him. There are always quiet moments on trains, moments where you stare out the window and think deep thoughts about life and all its bullshit. Our quiet moments were filled with thoughts of the great man, the great myth, the fastest rising actor and celebrity in the world, Arthur Kade, Arthur Kade.
We met a writer named Duane Swierczynski and his wife for a quick bite before the reading. We told them about our potential meeting with Arthur. Duane just shook his head and laughed. His wife knew nothing about the Arthur Kade legend. Barnes & Noble was two blocks away. As we neared the store, I thought I saw Arthur outside with an umbrella (I was not wearing my glasses). I got excited and nudged Anna and said, "Look, he's there, right there in front of the fucking store." She laughed at me and said I was a fool. The person I thought was Arthur turned out to be a homeless teenager.
We walked into the store and didn't see him, though we both scanned the place pretty thoroughly. Anna looked at me and I just shrugged and said, "We're not A-list, what do you expect?" We started chatting with the booksellers. A minute or so later Anna nudged me and said he's here. I turned around. Walking towards us, in form-fitting jeans and a tight T-shirt — either Affliction or Ed Hardy, I can't really tell the difference — was Arthur motherfucking Kade.
Though she denies it, I swear I heard Anna gasp and say, "He's a god." He walked up, introduced himself and asked how our trip had been. He was extremely friendly and extremely polite. He was disarmingly friendly and polite. He asked when the reading would start and if we wanted to go out to dinner with him afterwards. Much to my shock and dismay, Anna said yes.
As we waited for it to start, we saw brief glimpses of the Arthur Kade we know online. He asked about Hollywood, talked about his desire to become an actor, talked about how much fun he was having with new-found notoriety. He was very matter-of-fact about it, not blustery or idiotic at all. When Anna stepped away for a moment, I asked him where he thought she ranked on the Kade Scale, which is his own ranking of how women look. He smiled and said he never ranked friends and associates because he thought it was disrespectful (though he obviously changed the policy after we left town) and that he now considered me and Anna part of the Arthur Kade Glalaxy. I was, again, very surprised at how nice and polite he seemed to be, and was having trouble reconciling the Arthur Kade before me with the Arthur Kade online. While Anna read he was very attentive. While I read he was very antsy and had trouble sitting or standing in one place. A normal reaction I think. I know I would much rather watch her read than I would watch me. She's cute. I am not.
The reading went well, we had a great crowd, sold and signed a good number of books. Readings are tiring. As a writer, I like being alone all day. I get extremely nervous before readings and find them draining. I was tired. I know Anna was tired. Arthur was waiting for us.
We got up from the table. While we signed books and chatted with readers, he sat about ten feet away. We could hear him introducing himself to people, and telling them about the Arthur Kade experience, and about a recent article written about him in Philadelphia Magazine (one of the most influential magazines in the world — his words, not mine). He asked if we would shoot a video with him. Anna again blurted out yes before I could signal her to say no. He pulled out his camera, turned it on. The video was actually sort of fun, it was the first, and really only time, we saw the absurd and clownish Arthur on his website actually appear in the flesh. Anna and I both had a laugh. We finally met the man we had wanted to meet. We hoped for some kind of awesome unforgettable Arthur Kade adventure. As soon, however, as the video camera was turned off, that Arthur disappeared.
He asked where we wanted to go for dinner. He told us we could pick anywhere in Philly, and that he could get us in. I said somewhere close because I didn't feel like walking far. He immediately turned and said I have a few places in mind, and led us away. As we left the store I asked Duane, my writer pal we had been with earlier, to call me in fifteen minutes and pretend he was my wife. I would have had dinner with the clownish Arthur. It would have been interesting and ridiculous and a great story. I had no interest in the nice, polite, and seemingly genuine one because I was tired and wanted to go home.
As we walked down the street, people did recognize him. We heard a couple people call out "Arthur Kade!" and I swear I heard one yell "Yo, asshat." (Though that might have been directed at me.) Bouncers said hello to and hugged him, the hostesses at restaurants waved. We walked into a crowded place, and Arthur walked to the greeter, and asked for and actually received, a really great table.
We sat down. Anna started asking Arthur questions about "the journey." About how he holds up under the barrage of nasty comments on his site, and the derision people display towards him there. He shrugged and he said he didn't care, that everyone was just jealous, that although sometimes it might hurt a little, he knows it comes with the territory. He wasn't arrogant about it, more just sort of sheepish and confused, as if he didn't understand why people made fun of him. He then told us a story about his grandparents, who he called very endearing Russian names (he said they're Russian immigrants). He said the one thing that had really upset him was that someone had posted his grandparents' phone number online, and that people were calling them to say what an asshole their grandson is. He said they called him a fool, a clown, a fuckface, a dickhead, and a fucking idiot. He was extremely vulnerable in telling the story, and you could see that it genuinely shocked and upset him. He seemed like a hurt little kid, misunderstood and confused. It was heartbreaking in a way, and completely different from anything either Anna or I expected from him. We both felt sad for him, and I know, because we talked about it later, that we both wanted to give him a hug and tell him things would be okay. Duane's call came about thirty seconds later and we got up to leave.
Arthur got us a cab and made sure we knew where we were going. We waved goodbye as we pulled away. Anna turned and looked at me and said "He was so nice and polite, a little kid, like a hurt little kid." I agreed with her. We were both kind of shocked. We had wanted an asshole, someone to laugh at and mock, and we got a real person, one that was slightly delusional about himself, but not at all resembling the buffoon on his website or in his videos. The train ride home was uneventful. There were quiet moments, moments where we stared out the window and thought deep thoughts about life and all its bullshit. We talked a little about Arthur, but not much. Having had our time with him, I think we both decided it was best to just let him go, let him take his "journey", and hope that he somehow finds his way.
Talked to Anna this morning. Arthur asked for her number and she gave it to him. I told her she should have given him a fake one, but she said she would have felt too guilty. He texted her a around 9:00 and told her he was coming to New York and wanted to take her out to dinner. She said she's going to be out of town.