Since his Diving Bell and the Butterfly was released to wide critical acclaim and he received a Best Director Oscar nomination nod, Julian Schnabel has been basking in adulation like a seal in the afternoon sun. Much of the attention has come from us at Intel, who find everything about Schnabel, from his irascible braggadocio to his pajamas to his frontal and dorsal man-fur, extremely compelling. But other people love El Schnabuloso, too, like Lou Reed, who mentioned his longtime friend and neighbor’s “big old heart,” when he introduced him as an honoree at the amFar awards last night. But how big was that heart, and was there room in there for us? We sidled up to the Schnabel to try and find out.
He was chatting with Mark Ronson about Amy Winehouse. “She’s the best there is,” he told us, when we inquired if he was a fan. “As good as they get. She’s got it.” Huh. And here we thought he was into old-guy music, like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Amy seemed to be in a sort of a bad place right now. What would the Schnab say to her, you know, if she were listening? “Call me anytime,” he said. “Get my number from Mark. Five in the morning, whenever you want, I’m there.”
Our heart melted. Also, we were sort of jealous. What did he see in her, anyway? “She’s talented, soulful, brilliant,” Schnab gushed. Sexy? We pouted. His faced turned stormy. “It’s not about sex,” he said. “It’s about humanity. So if you want to take our conversation into some other derailed place, we can stop now.”
No! We quickly changed the subject. How did he feel about the Oscars? “I’m glad I’m nominated,” he grumbled richly. “It’s unusual.”
So … what would he wear? “What I’m wearing right now, probably,” he said. He was wearing a tux. What about his purple pajamas? “When I wear pajamas, it looks like a tuxedo anyway,” he said, giving us duh look. And if you think about it, it’s true: The Schnab is that regal. “I don’t need to make any kind of statement with my clothes there,” he continued. “I just wanna conform.”
We mentioned that we had read that Schnabel took issue with Andrew Corsello’s description of him in GQ; among other things, Corsello had called his hands, “thick, unpretty, and blue collar.”
“Luckily I have my hands on my body to show the exaggeration that was in the piece,” Schnabel said. “You’ll notice they’re quite delicate. But I think it was an excellent work and he’s a good writer.” He shrugged. “I guess it sells magazines.”
Was he getting personal, dissing our craft? Our stomach churned with disappointment. Well, we journalists do what we have to do, we said weakly, turning away.
And then Schnabel surprised us. “What do you have to do?” he said. “What do you want to do?” He looked at us, straight in the eye: “Are you happy to be here?”
Something in the way he cared shattered our usual Teflon-ly jocose reporting façade. These affairs were always a mix of happy and stressful for us, we admitted, suddenly feeling lighter for having put words to our corrosive vocational ambivalence.
Papa took us by the shoulders. “So relax and have a good time,” he murmured. “It’s fine, it won’t matter.” We couldn’t help ourselves. Gingerly, we put our hands on each side of his beefy, infinitely comforting midriff. As we tremblingly stood there in the quasi-hug — schnug? — Papa spoke again: “As Captain Beefheart said, ‘I’m matter, and you’re matter, but it doesn’t matter.’” —Tim Murphy
For more pictures and quotes from the amFar party — including Anna Wintour, Lou Reed, and Barry Manilow — read Party Lines.