Please Kill Me author Legs McNeil on His New Book, Music and Chuck Berry
Do you have any pictures of her? Or do you know what she looked like?
No, in fact, I refused to look at any pictures of her while we were editing. Because I didn't want to be swayed by it. I've only seen one picture of her.
Are people trying to give you stuff of hers now? Have you become the caretaker of her legacy?
No, no her mom is the caretaker of her legacy. No, I don't think I'd want that responsibility.
Does this book make you more interested in teenage-girl diaries? Did it change your taste in things that you might find fascinating?
A lot of girls have said to me, "Wow, you should have read my diary." And I say, "Well, let me read it." And they say, "I destroyed it." Or they lost them. And that's something that is kind of tragic. But I've always been kind of interested in teenage writing. I mean, that's what Please Kill Me is.
It's teenage writing?
[Laughs] Well, it's very emotionally retarded. It's also very smart, like Dear Nobody. But at some point we're all stupid. Like when Cheetah Chrome throws the guinea pigs out the window, you know? It's just like, "What are you doing?"
Yeah, there are some adolescent tales in there, that's for sure.
But you know what? When I was a kid -- and I have them all now on the bookshelf right next to my desk -- I have all of these gang books from the '60s. Like Run Baby Run and Down These Mean Streets, and that's kind of what Please Kill Me was based on. These gang books. I always wanted to be in a gang. I grew up in the suburbs where the only gang of kids were, like, toddlers riding in big wheels. So I always liked the city. And hanging out on fire escapes and smoking cigarettes was always very romantic to me.
Well, you did it!
Yeah! When we did Punk Magazine I did a lot of that, but it was more hanging out on stoops and drinking beer. Talking to girls as they walk by and stuff like that. It was fun. I tried to live out those books, but I was too much of a wimp to join a gang.
Was it as great as you thought it would be? Sitting around on stoops and hollering at girls?
Yeah! And drinking beer! And smoking cigarettes!
Speaking of, when you were here you saw Chuck Berry. Can you tell me about that?
Oh, it was great! I really wanted to see Chuck. I mean, he couldn't really remember the words, but it was so much fun just to be in the same room with the guy when he's playing, you know? And he was fuckin' ancient, wasn't he?
He's ancient plus a year, because that was a year ago this week.
Was it? This week? You know, it's like Chuck Berry will never die. Ever. Even when he physically dies, he will never die.
Well, that's sort of what you did for Mary Rose, too.
Oh, who knows? It will probably come out and nobody will read it...
Oh, shut up. Now tell me, do you often see bands when you're out on book tours? What's your musical intake?
I'm really into garage bands from the '60s. So over the summer I'm going to try to see a lot of garage bands. I'm going to see the Standells. They're touring, actually. Their tour starts now. I just want to see them do "Dirty Water" live, you know? And I've been buying a lot of records these days. Vinyl is back!
Dear Nobody is available now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers.
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