I don’t have anything exciting to tell you about Letterman. It went by so quickly. The whole day was a blur, with a press confab at the BNC offices, a promo photo shoot, a stop at the MTV offices to shoot some little segments for them, and then we got stuck in traffic trying to get back to the NBC studios to do Late Night. We got to do one half run-through of Wonderland for rehearsal, and then they stuck us in the green room, where Ziggy kept me distracted by working on a song, and then we played the actual segment in front of the live audience, and then we got out of there, back to BNC to regroup, after which we were supposed to head to dinner with some of the bigwigs.
During the regrouping, I think Digger and me and Mills were supposed to sit down to a meeting of some kind, but when we got there, Digger and Mills were already in pow wow and not to be disturbed. Which suited me fine. I hate meetings. But it meant cooling our heels for a little while.
Jonathan and I had round two of our fight-that-wasn’t-a-fight in a men’s room on the eighth floor of the BNC offices. It was nearly seven and almost everyone in that department had left for the day.
J. was washing his hands when he asked, “So if I write about the success of Wonderland for Cashbox, how much of what you told me about the behind the scenes stuff can I include?”
“Doesn’t that kind of depend on what you include?” I asked in return. “Anything anyone said in front of other people today is obviously fair game, right?” There had been some talk about the song charting at the press conference earlier.
“Right. I mean of things you said to me directly, in private.” He pulled paper towels out of the dispenser and dried his hands, but then stood there holding them, damp and crumpled. “I don’t want to get this wrong, D.”
“Me either. What did I say and can you help me figure out whether any of it should be a secret?”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
I hadn’t meant it as funny. I was quite serious. My staring at him while I tried to figure out what to say next clued him in somewhat.
“You said it was Mills’ idea to do a video for Wonderland,” he said tentatively.
“That’s probably not going to cause a controversy, is it?” I really couldn’t guess. “I mean, that’s an A&R rep’s job, right? Helping steer a band’s moves to sell more records?”
“Yeah.” He finally threw the paper towels in the trash, but didn’t go anywhere. “Maybe I’ll ask him casually about the video for the story and see what he says, though.”
“Because you can’t take my word for it?” I felt confused.
“Well, as a reporter I really shouldn’t, even if I personally trust you. But that’s not what I meant. If he offers the story of his own accord, on record, then it would be obvious he’s okay with that being public knowledge, if you see what I’m saying.”
“Ah, yeah. Makes sense.”
“Why did you tell me about that whole thing anyway?”
“Um.” I had to think for a second, and then I wondered if I was saying the wrong thing. “Because people talk to their boyfriends about what’s going on in their lives…?”
It wasn’t the wrong thing. He smiled and gave a glance around like he was aware this was not the best place to either talk about this or for public displays of affection. “I’m glad you tell me things. I don’t want you to feel like you have to shut up around me. I’m going to try to be careful, though. I don’t want industry politics or something like that to come between us.”
“How about you show me what you write before you turn it in?” I suggested.
That was the wrong thing. I saw him bristle before he rubbed his chin like he was thinking about it. “Sometimes that’s not possible, though, if I’m on a deadline and you’re God knows where. And some of the places I write for have a policy against it, because they don’t want the articles to become mere publicity vehicles or propaganda, if you see what I’m saying? Publicists always think that what you’ve written should be more flattering to their clients, in other words, less truthful.”
“I don’t want to get in the way of you doing your job,” I said. “But one, I’m not a publicist, and two, what’s more important, my feelings or a policy?”
It must have come across much more prickly than I meant it because he took my hands in his. “Your feelings are much, much more important. That’s why I’m asking about this in the first place.”
It was very, very nice to hear that put forth in such a clear way. “Okay. And I get that you can’t check every word with me in advance. But anything you think could be… sensitive? Could you try?”
“I can try.”
This was completely not the right place to be having this conversation. But if I didn’t say this now, I never was going to. “I think a lot of people read a lot more into that profile you did of us in SPIN than you intended for them to.”
His cheeks reddened a bit.
“It’s half the reason I finally came out to Remo,” I went on.
“What’s the other half?” he asked, half in a whisper.
“That it was about fucking time.” My palms were sweating suddenly but he didn’t let go of my hands. “I… I had sort of forgotten about the whole article. Until now.”
“I didn’t know you at all, then,” J. said softly.
I should have let it go. I should have accepted that as a kind of apology and we should have gotten out of there. Instead, I pressed. “You knew us well enough that you knew—but didn’t directly say—that something was going on between me and Ziggy.”
“A blind man could see something was going on between you two.” His hackles were going up again. “I didn’t write anything that any writer who spent an hour with you wouldn’t have picked up on.”
He might have been right about that. I thought about the Music Time piece. Had it been as packed with innuendo? I couldn’t remember now.
“And the public will always imagine there is more going on between a lead singer and a guitarist than you write,” he said. “I don’t mean sexual, necessarily. But it’s one of those relationships that people are fascinated by and draw their own assumptions about, like they do with cop partners. It’s why there are so many cop movies about partners.”
“Then why imply anything at all? If people are going to fill in that blank on their own, why go there?”
“I didn’t think I implied that much, Daron.”
“The first words of the article, if I remember right, are ‘love at first sight.'”
“A direct quote from Ziggy,” J. said in his defense. “And that doesn’t come until the second page.” He was cringing a little.
“What’s wrong?” Besides the fact we were having a sort-of fight, I meant.
“The actual first words of the article look really incriminating now,” he said. “Not on you, I mean. On me.”
“What were they really?”
He swallowed and then spat them out. “‘Nowhere to hide.'”
We stared at each other for a long moment then, while I think we both had some serious thoughts about whether we needed to break things off. And then I had a sudden chill when I wondered what Ziggy had been implying when he said those words. Ziggy didn’t say anything by accident, especially not to a reporter.
J. spoke first to end the staring match. “I’ll check with you. I promise. Anytime I can. I’ll try to run things by you. But you have to promise only to ask for changes that you think would actually hurt your career somehow or violate your privacy. You can’t be editing me all the time.”
“I promise,” I said.
I squeezed his fingers and he squeezed mine and neither of us was ballsy enough to risk anything more than that at that moment in that place. And then we left the room before our absence together became incriminating.