I hate when a famous person dies and everyone who ever met them once writes stuff about the person.
But I’m shaken about Lou Reed dying.
As I sit here (and, for some reason, my hands are literally shaking) I realize I took Lou Reed for granted. I assumed he would always be here. The music and also the person. He just doesn’t seem like someone who could die. He was part of our souls.
Also, Lou Reed once swatted me on the ass and I don’t know why.
I’ve forgotten entire years of childhood and adulthood too. But I remember listening to Lou Reed starting at about age 14. Over and over and over and over. I never fell out of love with his music and it imprinted all over me.
When my friend Knox Chandler and I made my second record, Love is a Dog From Hell, we recorded a cover of Lou’s Vicious. It came out pretty well and remains one of my favorite pieces of my own work.
Steve Buscemi liked it and agreed to direct a video. This alone was a pretty big deal. But then, somehow, Lou Reed himself heard the song and LIKED IT and WANTED TO BE IN THE VIDEO.
The day of the shoot came and things rolled along nicely. Steve is a great director, everyone in the cast and crew was pleasant, it all went really well. Then, it was time for Lou Reed to arrive. I was nervous as hell. We all were. Except Michael Portnoy, the performance artist, who plays my love interest in the video. Nothing makes Michael nervous.
Lou Reed arrived without fanfare. He was friendly and said nice things.
I only exchanged a few words with him. I was terrified. It was almost like meeting Bach somehow. I mean, not quite. He hasn’t influenced my soul to THAT degree, but, pretty close.
Here is a weird edit of the video, the only version I could find. I think Michael Portnoy posted it, so it includes Michael’s opening monologue, which was cut for the version of the video that eventually aired on MTV etc. And the song is kind of chopped in half in this edit. But watch through to the end and there is Lou Reed, I promise. Vicious video here.
A month or so after the Vicious shoot, I was doing a reading. A few minutes before going onstage, I saw Lou Reed walk in and sit down in the audience. He was by himself. I was still terrified of him but I went over and said Hi. Then, I asked: What are you doing here?
He looked blank for a second then said “I came to hear you read.”
I was incredulous. “You did?” I asked.
We talked for a few minutes. But he still made me nervous and, as soon as I could, I fled to the backstage area and tried to forget he was there.
I saw him a few more times after that. We did a Def Poetry Jam taping together sometime in the early 2000’s and, right before I went onstage, LOU REED SWATTED ME ON THE ASS. I swear. You can ask my cousin, Shahram. Shahram was at the taping and, because Shahram sees EVERYTHING, he somehow saw this moment where Lou Reed swatted me on the ass and I probably would have long forgotten about it, but Shahram loves telling that story.
I didn’t know how to interpret that ass-swatting. I mean, it’s not like Lou Reed and I were bosom buddies or had dated or really done more than exchange a few words here and there. Why did he swat my ass?
The last time I saw Lou Reed, maybe two years ago, I saw him across a room and found he still sort of filled me with nervousness, so I didn’t go say Hi.
Now, he is dead. And it makes me feel shaky, like a small piece of me is gone.
And I’ll never know why he swatted me on the ass.