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Amy Alkon Interview

I meet advice columnist Amy Alkon for lunch on May 28, my 37th birthday, in Venice.

I walk down the street looking for the restaurant. Amy emerges out of a coffee house and greets me. I follow her and watch her gather her stuff, which is sprawled over a table and chairs. She has a laptop computer and stacks of paperwork and clothing.

She wears black pants with bright embroidery, a purple shirt, a black top, a black sweater and a black leather jacket.

I've known Amy for 18-months through the LA Press Club parties she throws with Cathy Seipp and she's always dressed perfectly.

Among the first emails I received from Cathy and Amy was one written by Alkon describing Cathy as her "partner." Having seen the homo-friendly film American Beauty, I was hip to homosexuals calling their love interest their "partner." So I concluded Amy and Cathy were lesbian lovers, which disappointed me as I had a crush on Cathy (though I'd neither met her or seen a picture).

About a year down the road I realized Cathy and Amy were not lesbians. Amy's into her men while Cathy's into her responsibilities, like her 14-year old daughter. Alkon has no children and doesn't believe in God, marriage or Jewish chosenness.

Despite her unbelief, her denigration of all that is sacred, her post-Jewishness, I decided to grant Adolf Hitler post-humous victories and give Amy a closer examination.

Cognizant that I was turning my back on the 4000-year tradition of my people, I agree to have lunch with Amy at a goyisha restaurant. I wear neither my yarmulke nor my tzitzit and I desecrate the mitzvah of shomer negilla (not touching opposite sex) by not only shaking Amy's hand but kissing her cheek as well. Not only upon greeting, but also upon parting. Good thing Rabbi Adlerstein can't see how low I've fallen.

Amy and I take a table at this fancy restaurant. We sip our drinks. Amy mentions she was "the most dumped woman in Los Angeles."

This sends me diving for my tape recorder.

I remember a lot of snarky comments on www.laexaminer.com, the typical back-biting stuff you hear from people who don't know the Lord. I got the idea that Amy had been around the LA and NY media blocks and she'd dipped in the pool once or twice.

Amy laughs. "Talk to Emmanuelle [Richard]. Most of them [Amy's dating partners] did something creative. Thinking for a living. And that they cared about making a difference in the world. If you were an entertainment lawyer, I wouldn't date you. There were exceptions. I know a lawyer in New York...who's ethical...but if you're job is deceiving people out of their money, you are not for me."

I've been waiting for a couple of minutes to dive into my potato-leek soup with radish.

Luke: "Is it ok if I dive into this?"

Amy: "Sure."

I take a spoonful. It's good. I then take some of the radish part and it's yucky. I finish 80% of the bowl. I usually clean my plate unless the food is gross. For a fleeting second, I thought of doing a David Poland and sending it back but my Protestant upbringing prevents me (Jesus suffered so we must too).

Amy: "I did date someone who was well known and will remain nameless... There were a series of people who dumped me in quick succession. Many were writers. I feel like I have a lot in common with writers. Someone who doesn't just take the world as it is but analyzes it and wonders how it could be different."

Amy has never communicated with an alien and she does not believe Elvis is still alive. She's agnostic about God. "I believe I don't know and I think it is really arrogant of people to say that they do know. It's stupid and arrogant of people who think that God is Charleton Heston sitting up in a winged chair holding the Ten Commandments."

I find that phrase infuriating because of never met anyone who thinks of God like that, or who thinks of God as an old man in the sky. This is one of those cheap shots nonbelievers use to dismiss those who do believe without wrestling with the powerful, and I think overwhelming, arguments for God's existence.

Luke: "Have you met anyone who believes that?"

Amy: "I write for papers across the country and yeah, I talk to people everywhere... Yeah, people believe..."

Luke, infuriated and bearing down: "You've met someone who believes that God is Charleton Heston sitting on a chair in the sky?"

Amy: "I didn't actually interrogate them to that degree but I think that all the pictures in the Sistine Chapel of a white bearded guy... They think somebody up there is...maybe not the Charleton Heston image out of my head, but they believe..."

Luke: "He's an old man in the sky."

Amy: "Yeah, an old man in the sky. Exactly. Like he actually cares about your life."

Yeah, it is so much more rational to believe in either a Creator who makes a world and then doesn't care about it, or that this universe came about by fluke.

Amy: "Luke Ford is crossing across the street. I'm going to trip him. I just find it ludicrous.

"I do believe, and I don't want to sound all Californian, an energy... You light a match and a fire starts."

Luke: "You believe in karma."

Amy: "Karma makes sense. I don't believe in the whoooh California type of karma."

Luke: "You believe in a more sophisticated New York-version of karma."

Amy: "I'm from the Midwest. I don't identify with being a member of anything."

Alkon grew up in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

Luke: "You're Jewish, right?"

Amy: "I was a small persecuted Jewish child."

Luke: "You lived in a goyisha neighborhood?"

Amy: "I don't like the term goy, which means 'stranger.'"

The denotative meaning of goy is nation and it has no negative connotations. As used in Jewish life, goy means 'the other,' the stranger, and frequently has negative connotations.

Amy: "I like to be global and look at people as people and not divide based on Jewish or not-Jewish.

"The foundation for my column is Albert Ellis and Jewish values. I can relate. I don't like the idea of goy and Jewish.

"My Dad [sells commercial industrial properties with his wife, Amy's mom] moved to [Farmington Hills] thinking we were just like everyone else. I was called "dirty Jew." I was the oldest child. I was the weird child in the family, which has something to do with men not feeling comfortable with me. In Seventh grade, these girls threw chairs at me and called me nasty names. I can't remember if it was "kike" or "dirty Jew." My Dad had to write a letter to the principal. One of the [persecuting] girls was half-Jewish. It was that self-loathing Jew thing."

Luke: "Prejudice?"

Amy: "Just amazing to me. It's just so weird."

Alkon went to a Reform temple every weekend and Jewish camp in New York every summer.

"I did a Bat Mitzvah years later. I did it myself. I did it at a conclave I went to in New York. I was a counselor for kids. I just went along for the weekend. I learned Hebrew. I wrote a story and I won a trip to Israel. I picked pears at Yad Mordechai kibbutz -- near Ashkelon, famous because a handful of people there held off the entire Egyptian army for five days. My Mom goes to a Torah class every weekend, which I like because it is not just ancient things. They relate it to now.

"I like Virginia Postrel's site [dynamist.com]. She used the word mitzvah to mean taboo. So I wrote to her that it is a "Do and Do Not" list. I took the trouble to copy out of the Encyclopedia Judaica what actual Jewish scholar's idea of mitzvot are. And she said, 'Oh no, I meant it in a secular way.'"

Virginia Postrel writes: "Several readers have objected to my use of the term mitzvot in the post below, so let me unpack my argument. It is true that mitzvah (the singular form) means "commandment," not "taboo." Jews colloquially use the term to mean "good deed," and a lot of people think that's the definition. But many mitzvot are negative commandments, not positive actions. ("Thou shalt not murder" is a mitzvah, and so is "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk.") Most of those negative commandments are what we would call taboos if they were not in a Western context. Much of Jewish law--including such famous provisions as the observance of the Sabbath and the keeping of the dietary laws--is concerned with separation, the clean/unclean distinction, and holiness. Those laws function as taboos, not guides for spiritual practices or behavior toward other people. Hence my loose application of the term below."

Amy: "I was really surprised. If I'm wrong and somebody points it out to me, I will say, OK, thank you. [But Virginia rejected all correction.] I even told her, 'You can call my mother.' My mother has every Jewish book."

Luke: "Mitzvot has nothing to do with taboo. It means commandment."

Amy has two younger sisters (one in Chicago and one in San Francisco).

Alkon went to the University of Michigan for three years and then graduated with a degree in film in 1988 from NYU's "worthless undergraduate film school."

Amy wanted to go to graduate film school but her parents refused to fund her. So she took a job as a producer at the New York advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather.

"I had two friends at Ogilvy. One night we went to a diner We had a sad waiter. We asked him what his problem was. We talked to him and gave him advice. He said, 'You guys are great. You should do this for a career.'

"So, for a joke, we got chairs from the Salvation Army, and we made a sign that said, 'Free Advice From A Panel Of Experts.' We set up on the street in Soho on the corner of West Broadway and Broome. It was to be a visual joke. We just wanted to make people laugh. It was New York. It was free. People lined up around the block. About five years after we started, Eric Messenger wrote a story [in 1992] about us in The New York Times. All of a sudden, we were on Maury Povich and NPR. I got us a TV deal with DeNiro and a book deal. We got a column in the New York Daily News.

"Then a month before we were to go on a ten-city book tour [in 1996], and we had this money to do a TV pilot, one of my partners [Caroline] thought that would be the right time for her to quit. Then the other one [Marlowe] eventually quit [Amy still talks to her]. So I was writing the column alone for the New York Daily News. Then I started a second column while we were in the breakup process. I wanted to have my own thing. I syndicated it myself, which is hard, and got myself in 70-papers. Now I have my own syndicator (Creators).

"We made a deal just before Ann Landers died. I was coming back from an Evolution Society Conference. I go to one every year. Even though my column looks like humor, it's based in science. I'm a big fan of Albert Ellis and am influenced by his stuff. I was at Newark airport and I sign on to AOL and I see that Ann Landers died. I was going to France in a week. It was the worse time. I had people calling me every night. I was in Paris for a month. Every night at 8PM, I had to be home because it was nine hours difference from the West Coast. I had to be interviewed by somebody for a paper. 'Are you the next Ann Landers?' 'Are you the next Ann Landers?'

"When somebody tells me something is impossible, I don't accept that verdict."

Amy describes how she stalked her way into Ogilvy by hanging outside the building, waiting for somebody important to walk out so she could give him her resume.

Amy has been sick with bronchitis for two weeks but she still exudes energy.

I eat my seared tofu with rice, picking out the vegetables and mushrooms (50% of the plate) while Amy eats her tuna salad.

Amy: "I wanted to write about this in The Los Angeles Times. I was diagnosed with ADD. I don't accept it as a disorder. I just think differently than most people. From my study of evolutionary psychology, I think I have the perfect evolutionary brain. If I was some woman millions of years ago sitting in a forest, I could get the salad, point out the bison and keep the child from falling off the cliff. My brain is many places at once, which makes it hard to write. Getting that diagnosis helped me because I was able to recognize that I do that, and managed it better."

Luke: "Did you go on medication for that?"

Amy: "I take Ritalin. I call it my concentration vitamin. I pitched this to the LA Times. If you have diabetes, you are not embarrassed about it. You go to the doctor and you get some insulin. I sit at the computer to write and to have a brain that's bouncing all over the place like a Ping-Pong ball is not conducive to me performing my employment. Ritalin has few side effects. When I first started taking it, I felt so strongly about that, to anti-stigmatize that, that I told everyone that I took Ritalin. I went to a newspaper conference with my friend David Wallis (featurewell.com, known Amy for 17-years) and he said to me, 'Will you please not tell the editors that you have ADD?'"

Luke: "What things most frustrate you in your romantic relationships with men?"

Amy: "I'm not frustrated any more. I have a great boyfriend. What was most frustrating was to be too much. I talk really fast. I'm opinionated. There are things about me that aren't for everybody. It was hard for me to find someone who was comfortable with me and comfortable with themselves.

"My boyfriend is stable and able to deal well with a crisis. I'm more high-strung and less tolerant than he is. He's Elmore Leonard's researcher. He goes out with the police in Detroit and gets color for the books. He's methodical about his work. He will spend a long time making sure he gets things right."

"One of the residuals effects of his work is that sometimes he talks like a mobster. Once we were on the phone and he said, 'When Kennedy got whacked...' It's very entertaining to listen to him! "

I turn off the tape recorder and let Amy eat.

Amy: "I'm finished. I don't eat huge portions. I don't eat like an American."

Luke: "How do you feel about terms like shicksa?"

Amy: "I despise shicksa, goyim... Anything that divides people. It makes me bristle. The term gets a rise out of me."

Luke: "Is your boyfriend Jewish?"

Amy: "No. I don't have a religion. I am informed by my Jewish values but my way of operating in the world is to be kind, ethical, live in the real world, leave the campground better than you found it. You should live in the moment with an understanding of the past and an eye to the future."

Luke: "Have you ever dated a black man?"

Amy gets a guilty smile: "Yes. For about six months. He was one of the men who is not afraid of me."

Luke: "Is he famous?"

Amy gets a guilty look: "Yes. I'm not identifying him. That was really unattractive to me..."

Luke: "That he was black?"

Amy: "No. That he was famous. There's nothing worse than being with somebody who is recognized by everybody..."

Amy starts to launch into a story about her black man but stops herself. "No, I can't tell that story. I try not to reveal personal details if that would be a problem for them.

"He emotionally deep but he wasn't interested in the intellectual realm. He was more interested in the soul, without being really irritating.

"Being a white woman with a black man, I sometimes got a really nasty reaction from black women. 'You're stealing our man.'"

Luke: "During your career, did you meet any man who implied to you that you should sleep with him to get ahead?"

Amy giggles: "No. Not to get ahead. Just for fun."

Luke: "Because you give off the vibe of not being a victim."

Amy smiles: "Because I give off the vibe of not being a prude. People don't think that they have to offer me something to have me sleep with them. 'We can forget offering her anything. We'll just sleep with her.'

"Albert Ellis and I had a talk about open marriage. Nena O'Neill [Albert's wife] went back on the idea that people have sexually open marriages.

"Open marriage is not treating the other person as your possession. You don't have to be a unit. They can have the friends they want. You're not jealous if they go talk to a woman at a party. If a man wants to be with me, he will. And if they want to leave me, they will. There's nothing I can do to prevent them from leaving. I just wish they'd leave me as soon as they first feel like leaving. This idea that you would tie someone to you is ridiculous and insulting. You can survive alone.

"There's an obvious difference between a "sexually open marriage" and an "open marriage."

"A guy wrote me last week that he wanted a friends with benefits relationship (friendship plus sex). I got all this hate mail. 'You told him how to do this. This is really immoral.' No. I advised him how to do this ethically. It will probably prevent him from fooling some girl into being his girlfriend when he's just horny. I just advised a friend of mine in New York who'd just been in all these relationships with the wrong women, I told him to go to a hooker. It was the best thing for him. I consider that moral. Everyone knows what's on the table. This is why prostitution should be legal. Drugs should be legal."

Amy laughs. "I love your provocative questions."

Good thing. Most people would've punched me by now.

With these comments, that body, her adoration of hedonist Albert Ellis, I'd venture that Amy's had more than her share of lovers (all of whom are welcome to write in to let us know how satisfied they were).

I ask Amy how she's changed and she talks about developing more rational thinking.

Amy: "People don't expect to be called on their behavior. That's the thing I share with Cathy [Seipp]. I am very comfortable not letting people get away with stuff."

Luke: "What do you hate and what do you love about the LA Press Club?"

Amy: "I hate when they have events where they give away free drinks or something, and people who are 95 and never show up to any events, come just because they want free food.

"I met Matt [Welch] and Emmanuelle [Richard] at an LA Press Club event."

Luke: "How did you meet Cathy?"

Amy: "I wrote her a fan letter. I so appreciate good writing. She'd written this hilarious piece in New York Press about the fat principal with a lisp. We met for coffee. We started throwing these writer-girl breakfasts that we do about once a month. We sit and talk and gossip about editors... It's a monthly water-cooler. I met my boyfriend after one of our breakfasts.

"If I have an idea, Cathy will encourage me to write it for somebody.

"Cathy and I had the idea of getting our two groups of friends together and we had a book party for Ron Rosenbaum at my place.

"I miss my New York life. Being able to go to a bar and have an interesting conversation. The idea was to replicate that. That's why we throw these parties every month."

Amy believes she's been blacklisted from the Los Angeles Times. "They don't publish the best. They publish the people who are docile enough to work for them. That Sonio Nazario is up for Journalist of the Year for "Enrique's Journey" [six-part series about an illegal alien who makes his way from Central America to the US to join his family] when the guys who wrote that piece on the Harrier Aircraft... That [Harrier] piece made a difference. They saved lives. They testified before Congress. It wasn't just, 'We should feel sorry for people who have less than we have.'

"The Harrier piece wasn't written to jerk your little heartstrings... It just told a story and told it well.

"Sonia Nazario should be tied up in stocks for writing that way."

Luke: "Who in the LA media world would have the most piercing insights into you?"

Amy goes off track. After I repeat the question twice, she comes back around to answering it. "Sherry Stern, the LA Times editor who wrote me that memo that I had no need to ever write them. No need to send us anything ever again. Bob Sipchen at the LA Times was my editor for the [Pink] Rambler piece.

"I'm not afraid of my hate mail. It's fun. 'You dimwitted bitch. How could you print that in your column?' I save those letters in a big file in a dusty cabinet. I have a whole packet of hate mail. I wish I ran here so that when I go to my coffee shop, people would argue with me and say, 'That's stupid.'

"I would never call myself a feminist because it's like calling yourself a whiny victim. I'm a humanist. I'm not for equal treatment for everybody, I'm for fair treatment. Should I be a fireman? No. If I had to save you out of a burning building, we're both going to die. Women have less muscle mass than men. If you can pass a fireman's test as a woman, sure, be a fireman. No affirmative action. I don't want to be the person who got the surgeon who got a leg up in med school.

"I don't understand why The Los Angeles Times doesn't publish the greatest writers they possibly can. Why they publish all these people who have little to say to anybody of intelligence? Why don't they hire the best person for the job? As you said, it is getting better.

"If I read anything about an issue, say science, or relationships, I can see the shallowness. I know so many talented people in this town who are not allowed to write for the paper."

Luke: "What group did you hang out with in highschool?"

Amy: "My temple youth group. I was the social action vice-president and song leader. I'd sing loudly so nobody could hear how bad I was with the guitar. I did programs for the Falashas [Ethiopian Jews]...and to see that there was handicapped access to malls. We had class every week. We discussed Judaism as it relates to now. I went to temple throughout my school-age existence.

"I went to Kutz Camp in New York where we studied Jewish stuff and we also ran around and were wild and naked. 'How nice, she's going to religious camp.' My temple gave me a scholarship. Meanwhile, we were just awful. People were running around the bushes when they weren't studying lofty Jewish concepts. I learned Hebrew. That's how I was Bat Mitvahed that weekend. I just picked a portion and I read it.

"I've always been interested in reading Jewish stuff. I don't worship anywhere. I have my own religion. You could say that I'm post-Jewish, which probably horrifies you."

Yes.

Amy: "I carefully picked out the way I behave."

Luke: "Smorgasbord."

Amy: "Exactly. I think it's helpful to understand why we are the way we are and to accept the realities of life. Men want beautiful women and women want men of status and power. I try to have opinions based on science and data. Kate Moss was not anorexic. She may have been as skinny as a number two pencil but she had a .69 waist-to-hip ratio, the hourglass figure. They did a study of waist-to-hip ratio in 37 countries, which means it is culturally invariant. People don't understand that our culture is based on our biology. Dr. Steven Pinker covers that well in his book, Blank Slate.

"People will say, 'Men only go for thin women because of our culture.' Our culture is based on our biology. Men want a women who conveys status upon them. In a culture where food is prevalent, a thin woman confers status. In a culture where food is scarce, a fat woman confers status. What stays constant is that men prefer women with that .69 waist-to-hip ratio. If you're a girl and you want a boyfriend, spray on some Revlon and put on a dress that makes it look like you have a waist."

Alkon has strong beliefs on diet. "I wrote on my blog about Gary Taubes, who is a friend of mine who wrote [in The New York Times Sunday Magazine that fat may not be so bad and carbohydrates may put on weight, similar to the Dr. Atkins diet, and Dr. Barry Sears' The Zone diet].

"Look at me. I don't diet. I eat like a French woman - really small portions of great food. People are healthier that way."

Luke: "Do your parents believe in God?"

Amy: "I don't know."

Luke: "How do you feel about lesbians?"

Amy: "I just like people who look attractive. If a woman has a mustache, I have a problem with that. Why don't her friends tell her to go get waxed? I don't think about gay or lesbian or straight, or black or Jewish. People are people."

I try to bait Amy into something bigoted but I fail miserably. It's just not in her bloodstream.

Amy and I love desert. I order chocolate cake and she orders green apple sorbet.

Luke: "Who do you turn to for advice?"

Amy: "Myself. I have all these ideas about how it makes sense to solve problems and live. I try to look at my behavior. I look to friends more for help with business stuff. David Wallis is my diplomacy coach. I can control how I speak to people to affect change. It's just that sometimes I choose to be self-indulgent."

Luke: "How many people do you want to see dead?"

Amy: "Nobody."

Luke: "Not even the woman editor who told you not to pitch her any more?"

Amy: "I don't want her dead. I just want her to be somewhere else, editing a newsletter. She can tell people on the town, like the little old ladies with their quilting bees, that, 'There's no need for you to send us any news about your quilting bee ever again. We're not seeking any new writers.'

"The LA Times should run more abrasive stories. They shouldn't worry about readers calling up screaming. They should want that. They should brag, 'We got twelve angry phone calls in the past ten minutes.'"

Luke: "Which writers are you jealous of?"

Amy: "I'm not jealous of people. It's irrational. I admire people. Jealousy makes no sense to me and I'm rational. Everything I do is based on reason.

"I try not to get fired from papers but the quality of Miss Speak-Out... I got fired from the Eugene Register-Guard and they hired Caroline Hax (from Washington Post syndicate). My column tells truths people don't want to hear. I don't promote received values."

Luke: "What's the most unpopular thing you've ever written?"

Amy: "A guy didn't want a fat wife and I wrote a column about that. I got directed to the fatso.com website. I understand he doesn't want a fat wife. He married a woman who wasn't fat. She was asking all these questions - would you still love me if I were fat? Well, the answer is - I'd love you but I wouldn't want to have sex with you. I don't think it's productive to fantasize about the way people 'should' be -- I look at reality. I got a slew of hate mail that men should like fat women.

"Also, that he should tell her the truth. This mistaken idea that people should be honest about everything. That people should be honest about everything. People deserve private life in a relationship and thoughts they keep to themselves. Sometimes honesty is a weapon. People who have affairs and want to tell their partners. If you cheated, you lug the burden around.

"I don't believe in marriage. I believe people get married..."

Luke: "But you don't believe it is an ideal."

Amy: "No. If you are independent, with self-esteem and a life independent of the other person... Women who get tied into men's finances and need men for ulterior motives... They think they got a free ride. They have their own little hell to deal with. I think if someone wants to leave me, they should. I accept that things end. A great relationship is two people who have more fun together and make each other better than they are alone. Once you stop doing that... Once you stop growing together. Once you stop being interesting to each other... It doesn't mean that you wouldn't be there for the other person in hard times. But to be concerned about being in a relationship, not because you are a human void without somebody, but because you create something bigger if you are together. Those ideas challenge everything that everyone's been told. The safe idea that if you marry somebody, you are going to be together forever. The idea that it is forever, there is so much [evidence] to dispel that. Yet people cling to that idea and think, 'We will be together forever.'

"Love at first sight is ridiculous. You can't love someone unless you know them. Until you find out if the person has the same values, if you have enough in common to make a life together, rudimentary day-to-day stuff. For example, I will never live with anybody. It keeps your relationship alive, keeps it sexy. I always miss my boyfriend. I haven't seen him since Saturday. I'm always happy when he walks in the door. You kiss somebody differently if you miss them. If someone is just sitting on your couch all the time, you don't appreciate them. All people are annoying. If you were living with Gandhi, you'd be screaming at him to get his sandals out from under the coffee table.

"That's the stuff that people don't want to hear. That maybe it doesn't make sense to live together. Maybe it doesn't make sense to stay forever. Maybe you shouldn't just couple up at first sight because it seems exciting."

Luke: "Think of the disruption to children if parents did what you said."

Amy: "It's a huge mistake for people to have kids with the person they had great sex with. If I were going to have kids, there is a guy I know, a good friend of mine, that I couldn't be less attracted to -- not because he isn't handsome and attractive, but because he's blond and blonds aren't my thing. But if we had kids, it would all be about what's best for those kids, and not about - 'Did you have sex with her? Did you look at that girl?' What's important is that parents commit one-on-one to their kids and not necessarily that they give them this idea that they are a family unit. All these families break up. All these parents are divorced.

"The best raised kid I know - her parents (Terry Rossio and Jennifer Serrano) are together but they live separately. They don't want their kid to have Hollywood values. "Cecile du Bois" (child of divorced parents Cathy Seipp and Jerry) is the same way. I don't like most kids but I find her to be an intelligent human being."

Luke: "How long have your parents been married?"

Amy: "Over 40-years. They work together and everything. In the past, women didn't have financial independence. My mother could very well have been like me and had a life of the mind instead of having kids and been very happy. It was a different world."

Luke: "What do you think about abortion?"

Amy: "I find abortion troubling but if I were pregnant, I would have an abortion. I'm not going to have a child."

Luke: "Is there any act between consenting adults that appalls you?"

Amy: "No."

Luke: "What about incest between consenting adults?"

Amy: "No. I don't relate to things based on religious prohibitions. What are the repercussions. If they do not have a child from that union... I find that weird. I can not imagine it. Ick!"

Luke: "Are you for gay marriage?"

Amy: "Yeah! I know so many gay people who have been together and committed and had more fabulous loving relationships than all these heterosexuals who are getting divorced, and we deny them marriage. I don't think marriage makes sense. But if heterosexuals can do stuff that doesn't make sense, why can't gay people?"

Luke: "How's your sorbet?"

Amy: "It's great. Do you want some?"

Luke: "Ummm..."

Amy: "I'm not catchy."

Luke takes a big spoonful of Amy's sorbet.

Luke: "If you force me..."

Luke: "Would you have been willing to give Bill Clinton oral sex to thank him for keeping abortion legal?"

Amy horrified: "No. Bill Clinton is not my type."

Luke: "Would you like to have sex with Gray Davis?"

Amy horrified: "I'd sooner have sex with a homeless man on the corner."

Luke: "Men tend to exaggerate their number of lovers while women tend to underplay it. What do you think of that?"

Amy: "Men want women who do not seem promiscuous. Then there isn't a chance that they will go have some other man's child. Men want women who have had no lovers."

Luke: "Most of my male friends would prefer to marry a virgin."

Amy: "Women don't care so much if men have had a lot of partners. In fact, it may just mean he's high status because he can get women. Loser men can't."

After 2:30PM, I walk with Amy back to my van. I warn her she's going to be horrified. It gets about ten miles to the gallon and you can fit about 20 illegal aliens in the back.

Amy has long been on an anti-SUV campaign.

Now she's sweet and understands I don't have the bucks to buy a nice new car.

Amy: "I think you should rent your van out for movie shoots!"

The first thing I remember about Amy was her joking at an LA Press Club event about these new cards she'd made-up to put on the windows of SUVs. The cards read: "Road-Hogging, Gas-Guzzling, Air-Fouling Vulgarian! Clearly you have an extremely small penis, or you wouldn't drive such a monstrosity. For the adequately endowed, there are hybrids or electrics. 310-798-1817."

Amy found them hilarious and regaled a group of us with tales of consequences and messages she's received from her campaign. I was appalled. I was convinced Amy was a nut with an empty life who had seized upon a meaningless cause.

Now that I know Amy better, I know she is not a nut and she has a full life. But I am still appalled by this cause of hers. I think that dropping her obscene cards in the public square causes moral pollution (especially when these cards wind up in the hands of children, which they will inevitably). As a conservative and a religious Jew, I am far more concerned about moral pollution than air pollution (idea owed to Dennis Prager).

I think there should be an extra dollar a gallon tax on gasoline. I think this would be a more effective means of reaching the goals Amy desires.

Amy writes: "I like that idea -- an asshole tax! If you're going to pollute, it should cost you. Likewise, I think people should be allowed to ride motorcycles without helmets, if they so choose, providing they take out a special policy that covers the cost of putting their head back together after an accident, if any."

Khunrum writes: "'Road-Hogging, Gas-Guzzling, Air-Fouling Vulgarian!' I wonder what she has to say to a guy who owns a Lincoln Town Car? Probably 'I'll be ready at 7:30.'"

Amy responds: "Lincoln Town Car-- eek! Tack-ola. While I love luxury, money isn't the most important thing to me in a guy. And, until recently, my boyfriend drove a very old Eagle, a small American sedan...maybe made by Chrysler? Not sure. Now he drives a Passat."

Fred Nek writes: I drive a Toyota Corolla. Does that mean I'm hung like John Holmes?

On May 30, I email Amy: "Working as an advice columnist, you really set yourself up to people abusing you for having the temerity to give advice."

Amy replies: "As I mentioned when we were at lunch, not getting wounded by it takes having a self that's not formed by others' opinions of me. Now, I prefer that people I respect not think I'm a blithering idiot -- but if people whose opinion I don't respect dislike me, I don't care. What matters to me is that I've been conscientious about digging up the truth -- what seems to me, upon investigation/contemplation, to be the truth, and/or the smart, healthy way to behave. And that I've put out good writing -- the best writing I can do."

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Tiffany Stone writes: "I've always wanted to converse with Amy, but she's difficult to catch. Is she a Leo? Amy has this intense, passionate presence. Every time I have seen her she's been dressed and coifed immaculately. I don't know anyone else who possesses this quality besides movie stars. Amy-- what's your secret?"

Luke writes Cathy: "Dear Cathy, I just did a long interview with Amy and I'm really annoyed because with one exception (her dissing of marriage), she didn't say anything stupid. Why do you two turn into (fill in the blank) when you get together? I understand now how much you two have in common. I didn't see it before. Who's the famous black guy she dated for six months?"

Cathy Seipp replies: "We're just too smart for the likes of you! But what is it we turn into I wonder? I know who the famous black guy is but my lips are sealed. However, I will think of something intelligent to comment about Amy and send to you..."

Matt Welch writes:

Dear Mr. Ford, I know very little about Amy Alkon's sex life, regrettably, though she *does* travel to France suspiciously often. Which is strange, because she's taller than every Frenchman I've ever met.

Amy is a force of nature, as you know. She's also very generous & helpful; I forget the details, but once I e-mailed her with a very trivial question about something or other, and she called me from her cell-phone, in the middle of doing something that sounded quite strenuous, and gave me 20 minutes of very detailed help and advice. She has offered to help the newspaper project in dozens of different ways, and it has already reaped dividends, though she may be unaware of it. She has some strange kink for evolutionary psychology, or fiduciary biology, or something like that. She is also righteously allergic to unearned journalistic arrogance. And girlfriend knows how to throw a party ... even if she has a vicious bias against the eastside.....

Emmanuelle Richard writes:

About Amy, if she didn't tell you about her black movie star lover, I can't reveal anything. He's really hot. But Amy is dynamite, hot pepper, a bursting passion fruit... When she's around, guys turn into those wolf characters in cartoon, you know, with their eyes popping out and their tongue out. The first few times I met her, I was a bit taken aback: she started telling me about making out with a guy on the beach in France (to make a point about how cultural differences, in tongue kissing and other things around the world) and I had a hard time to follow: she speaks really fast and I sometimes have a hard time catching all the great stuff she says. I'm getting better at it and it's delightful.

Amy nurtures and loves her friends, she's a wonderful person. She can talk people into anything with her charm. I wish her column was published more in Southern California, but I guess that with her new website, we will be able to read her advice column on a more regular basis. Did you meet her boyfriend, Gregg? They seem very happy together, the way it should be.

PS: no wonder she scares guys. She pulls out her anti-SUV cards and laugh at bully driver's private parts. I loved this campaign. She gave me a lot of anti SUV cards I put on every SUV at Trader Joe's.

Ken Layne writes:

Dear Luke, Oh, she *says* she hasn't communicated with an alien. The truth is, she has the home numbers for the aliens. That whole SUV thing is just to distract people from knowing about the UFOs she rides all over town. And beyond.

Anyway, Amy is the best. She is a smart, weird, hilarious nut and she's also a red-hot babe. Matt mentioned the Helping Buddy part of Amy. I can vouch for that. While experimenting with the idea of a self-syndicated column, I shot a few questions over to her. She gave me the equivalent of a four-year degree in the newspaper syndication business. Obviously, I adore her. Yes, I know the name of the "famous black guy," too, but like the Go Gos my lips are sealed.

One of the most amusing nights I've had in recent memory was leaving the AAN convention in San Francisco in a couple of cabs with Eric Almendral, Tim DeRoche, Matt Welch and Amy Alkon. We headed to North Beach and some friendly random stranger led us to a perfectly fine fancy Chinese bistro and we had great food & wine & conversation, then ended up in my hotel room with the addition of David Wallis (in smiley-face pajamas) and all sorts of wine.

Cathy Seipp writes:

First, Emmanuelle is exactly right about men turning into Tex Avery wolves when they see Amy and her Jessica Rabbit proportions. And ever since I wrote about her amazing (but entirely natural) measurements on my blog they've been inundating me with hamana-hamana-hamana comments. But as anyone knows who reads her stuff -- especially her wonderul first-person saga in the LA Times mag on how she tracked down and harassed the thief who stole her vintage pink Rambler, and also her rant in New Times L.A. about her anti-SUV campaign -- she is only a bimbo from the neck down.

I would add, though, that actually women can be more frightened of Amy in all her glory than men. Because sometimes women -- especially, I am sorry to say, women who work on newspapers -- have an unfortunate tendency to resent other women as improbably attractive and stylish as Amy. She herself is generous with everyone and completely devoid of female competitiveness...even rather innocent and naive, sort of like Marilyn Monroe. One example: That piece she wrote about finding the car thief for the LA Times mag got the most letters-to-the-editor of any mag feature there...but it was her first and last assignment for them. A male editor had assigned her the piece, but a group of female editors there apparently thought she got too much attention for it, and said -- I kid you not -- "We just think our readers deserve a little break from Amy." Right. God forbid a newspaper should actually engage its readers.

Anyway, Amy's always the first to compliment another writer -- that's how we met, in fact; she liked my old NY Press column and emailed me to say so -- and, by the way, she is not exactly the tough child-hating nut she likes to pretend to be. She has always been extremely nice to my daughter...who was once, in fact, driving me so crazy at some press luncheon that I made her sit next to Amy instead of me. They had a very nice conversation.

Also, Amy is the queen of pithy aphorisms. My favorite: "Revenge is the best revenge."

Author David Rensin says Amy's "smart, perceptive, very generous, and relentlessly full of quirky and interesting ideas. I think she could run the whole Matrix on her energy alone."