Hunter S. Thompson? Lester Bangs? Jack Kerouac? Fitzgerald? Hemingway? Salinger?
Nope, Reed. Rex Reed is, without a doubt, the person who most influenced my writing style. And I’ve never really read him. His TV appearances in the late ’60s/ early ’70s were my introduction to the Mean Queen that owes my head about 40 years back rent. Shit, my writing done come out of the closet (surprising no one.).
My mother didn’t like to be alone all day, so if you said you didn’t feel well, she’d let you stay home. This was limited to one kid only- the other six had to go to school. When it was my turn, I loved to watch the afternoon talk shows hosted by Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. A frequent guest was Rex Reed, the Fort Worth native who was the Liberace of movie criticism. But Mr. Ya Think? spoke to me, serving up one-liners about movies that had just come out. “‘Brigadoon’ with chopsticks” is how he summed up the “Lost Horizon” remake starring Liv Ullman. I hadn’t seen “Brigadoon,” but the reference wasn’t lost on me.
When I wrote that Motley Crue’s 1999 performance at the Bronco Bowl in Dallas was “bad enough to drive a pimp off a payphone” that was an homage to Mr. Rex Reed (even though it actually happened.)
Reed was the first person I ever saw on TV who talked shit about the arts. Took balls back then. Guy trashed John Wayne and Bette Davis. I tried to read his books, but he’s not a great writer. But he was so good on TV. A little kid in Mountain Home, Idaho started thinking that it was okay to be an asshole. Ended up making a career on it.
The most important thing about being a writer, I believe, is finding the voice in your head that tells you what to write. I mean, there’s research and interviews and fact-checking and all that, but 90% is the voice. After I saw Rex Reed savaging “Myra Breckinridge,” a film in which he had a role, he kinda got in my head. The gay social commentator voice streams through my head whenever I sit down to write criticism or commentary.
Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family” ain’t the only only one playing gay for pay.