21 questions

Nancy Balbirer Adores Doo-wop on the Subway

Name: Nancy Balbirer
Age: 43
Neighborhood: West Chelsea
Occupation: Writer, actor, co-owner of the West Village wine bar Pasita. Author of Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
Jackie O; Lucy Ricardo; Willie Mays; Cookie Mueller; Stephen Sondheim; Charles Busch.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
1. The murgha tikka musalam at the old Mitali West on Bleecker and Seventh Avenue South.
2. Breakfast at Florent with my friend Rob, after working all night at the club Mars back in the eighties. It was eggs over easy, crisp bacon, frites, croissant or baguette slathered in butter, and a large cranberry juice.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I write sentences.

Would you still live here on a $35,000 salary?
Yes. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d figure out a way.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Liza at the Palace.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yes. Though I am apt to give more for a performance. I just adore doo-wop on my subway rides.

What’s your drink?
I love a nice, crisp Grüner Veltliner.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Almost every night. My husband and daughter like it when I cook.

What’s your favorite medication?

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A Giclée of Picasso’s lover, Françoise Gilot.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
As much as you can afford for a great haircut. Don’t skimp on the hair, I say.

When’s bedtime?
It depends. I used to be such a night owl. But my husband Joel, when we met, taught me to go to sleep at a normal time, which was so sweet! But now I’m all fucked up. I know he’s right, but I still can’t figure out my clock. So I’m now one of these freaks who takes all kinds of shit to go to sleep … Ambien, which I had to quit ‘cause not only did it make me “sleep eat,” it made me feel very Go Ask Alice.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
Old Times Square.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
Well, he’s a Gemini, and I always get along with them.

What do you hate most about living in New York?

Who is your mortal enemy?
I don’t believe in that. But, if I had to say someone I truly despised, it would be the guy (Why do I assume it’s a guy? It must be … ) who came up with those hideous TVs in the back of taxis.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
December, in Los Angeles.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
It affects us all — doesn’t it?

Times, Post, or Daily News?
I subscribe to the Times, but I always read the Post online. The Post was the paper my father read (because it had the “best sports section”), and its sensational headlines in the seventies made a huge impression on me as a child. My favorite headline, though, came from the eighties, when Cher was dating that guy Rob Camilletti. He was a million years younger than she was, and he worked at some bagel place and one night got into a brawl wherein he got arrested. Thus the headline: “Cops Put Lox On Cher’s Bagel Beau!”

Where do you go to be alone?
The streets of New York.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
The ability to complain about shit to complete strangers and expect them to either agree or, at the very least, listen and sympathize; definitive opinions about what constitutes “great Chinese food” or a “perfect slice”; a fabulous sense of humor.

Nancy Balbirer will read the chapter “Beverly D’Angelo’s Former Manager” from her new book, Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences, at Book Soup in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. on Wednesday May 13.

Nancy Balbirer Adores Doo-wop on the Subway