21 questions

Documentarian Josh Fox Very Secretive About His Sauce Recipe

Photo: HBO

Name: Josh Fox
Neighborhood: “Right off the Navy Yards. There’s no official name for the neighborhood.”
Director. Gasland, Part II, the the follow-up to his Oscar-nominated film Gasland, premieres on HBO on Monday, July 8, at 9 p.m.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
There are so many people who are my New York heroes. Walt Whitman managed to create a poetry that is particularly American yet at the same time universal and so inspiring in the way that we understand the relationship to both nature and civilization. Martin Scorsese is a terrific film director who I’ve always loved. Public Enemy. Chuck D. That’s a start.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
You can’t beat Joe’s Pizza. You can go there at four o’clock in the morning and there’s a line. It’s amazing.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
In one form or another, tell the story of Americans standing up for their human and civil rights by resisting the natural-gas industry and the oil industry.

What was your first job in New York?
One summer in high school I was employed by a real-estate company, delivering flyers to offices to advertise the office spaces they had, if any of them wanted to move. And one of the buildings I was assigned to was the Empire State Building. I had to visit every single office in the Empire State Building, which took me two and a half days. In those days they said, “Don’t take the stairs,” because you could get mugged in the stairs.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Off Broadway, I saw Old Hats
, with my good friend Nellie McKay.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Sometimes. It depends. There’s a guy in a wheelchair who rolls up on the Brooklyn Bridge when you’re headed toward City Hall. I always talk to him and give him a couple dollars.

What’s your drink?
Iced coffee. Scotch. My aunt Vinnie used to drink Dewar’s, so I drink Dewar’s in her honor. If I really want to splurge, I go for Oban.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Pretty often. I love cooking. 
My Italian mother is a genius cook, and I picked that up from her. I make my own sauce, which takes four hours, from a recipe that’s been refined over many years. I won’t tell anybody what it is. At one point in time, I knew the girlfriend I was with was breaking up with me because I caught her taking notes on cooking the sauce.

What’s your favorite medication?
Water. Water is a cure-all. Water is everything. You can’t get better without drinking lots of water, and you can’t drink water unless it’s clean.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A blank gray wall that I use as a TV wall and for, like, Skype and stuff.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
For better or worse I’ve been cutting my own hair since I was 15. (I’m a good tipper.)

When’s bedtime?
I’m a night owl, and luckily my profession supports that. The best ideas come to me in the dead of night. My friends know I’m up, so they can call at three in the morning. Just don’t call me at, like, eight.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
Oh, that is a hard question. Old Times Square was scary and scuzzy and dirty. And the new Times Square is horrifically corporate and shallow and terrible. I wish there was a middle ground. I think unfortunately our governments have decided that either you can have things that are run-down and beat-up and gross, or things that are completely corporate and ugly and superficial.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
There are certain people who shouldn’t get any more play in the media.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
What I hate is watching the city get overrun by corporate interests, and it’s happened in such a pervasive way that people stopped being upset about it.

Who is your mortal enemy?
I saw Billy Bragg at Town Hall a month ago, and he said, “Our greatest enemy is not Fox News anchors or our political or ideological enemies, it’s our own cynicism.” I think that was a brilliant thing to say. Because the truth is, we do win when we care enough to put it all on the line.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
Yesterday. I love driving. I still drive a 1993 Toyota Camry. I do want to get an electric car, but it’s less of a carbon footprint if you keep your old, fuel-efficient car on the road than if you say “build me a whole new car.” But what is frustrating to me is that we could have an infrastructure in NYC to support electric vehicles. Every single parking meter could be an electric-vehicle parking station. It’s a place that we really need to go. And if that were the case I think we’d see a lot of New Yorkers switching over. So I call on this mayor or the next mayor to install electric-vehicle parking stations (and to not have them named after Citibank).

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
A lot of people out there lost their homes because of these predatory loans. Predatory leasing followed the predatory lending, so the gas industry would show up on people’s porches, like, “Oh, well, now you’re completely busted. We’re gonna give you exactly what you need for your next mortgage payment if you lease your land for hydraulic fracturing.” That was really insidious. I think that because the economy was in such bad shape, because of the last group of lying maniacs that will not pay for the harm they’ve done, now the people across the country are much more vulnerable to the deceitful pitch of the gas industry. Obviously I was not personally involved, but what we should learn from the crisis is that when big business starts to turn its wheels to try to make profits, it doesn’t care about people. You’re not on their radar.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
Times versus the Daily News, are you kidding? The Times.

Where do you go to be alone?
In the middle of the woods in Pennsylvania, or down the Delaware river on a raft.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
I’m gonna stick with E.B. White here, “You’re a New Yorker within five minutes of entering.” I think that that’s still the way it works.

Documentarian Josh Fox Drives a 1993 Camry