Disinfo's Richard Metzger
I meet my friend Richard Metzger (I've known him since December 1998 when he interviewed me for a radio show on Disinfo.com, then in early 2001, he interviewed me for a Channel 4 TV series in Britain now available on DVD) for lunch Tuesday, March 23, at the Good Earth restaurant on Ventura Blvd in Studio City.
I'm dressed in jeans and a pullover while Richard's dresses smartly as always in a blazer and a nice pair of daks.
Luke: "Are you a Satanist?"
Richard: "No. I make fun of Satanists. Heavy metal teenagers on Long Island lighting candles and listening to Ozzy Osbourne records..."
Luke: "Do you think Satanism is dangerous?"
Richard: "No. I think it is silly."
Luke: "Do you believe in a deity?"
Luke: "Do you believe in one God?"
Richard: "Not necessarily. The Greeks believed in many gods..."
Luke: "Do you think there is a divine entity that is more than human projection?"
Richard: "Sure, but I don't know what it is."
Luke: "Has the divine ever spoken to you in a direct and concrete way?"
Richard: "No, but I have had occultic experiences...and drug experiences."
I order a vegetarian tostada and Richard gets a bowl of vegetable soup and half a sandwich.
Luke: "How religious was your Methodist upbringing [in Wheeling, West Virginia]?"
Luke: "At what age did you tell your family you would no longer attend church?"
Richard: "Twelve or thirteen. I never had to go to church again after that. I was going three times a week.
"I went to public school."
Richard's dad worked for the telephone company and his mom worked as an insurance adjuster for Blue Shield. His sister, 18 months younger, is a devout Methodist.
Richard lost his virginity at age 15. "There wasn't a whole lot to do except to tip cows and to read. [Disinfo] subject matter has always been my area of interest. I was interested in strange things. I lived in a town where nothing strange or glamorous or unusual ever happened. These people seemed glamorous to me. I wanted to move to New York to be part of the Andy Warhol crowd and an underground filmmaker. I was into Monty Python, Woody Allen, and then Lenny Bruce, William Burroughs, Aleister Crowley. What do these last three have in common? Drugs. So I started doing drugs at age 12. I got my hands on marijuana. I smoked it a few times and liked it. From the first time I used it to the present, I've spent about a total of six months not using marijuana daily. I've tried almost every drug. I've never shot up heroin but I have injected ketamine with a member of a satanic cult."
Luke: "How did you get kicked out of high school, just a few weeks before graduation?"
Richard: "I was smoking a bowl of hash and got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there was the Vice Principal and the track coach, who hated my guts. I was a straight A student without any effort. They wanted to make an example of me.
"I was 17. I immediately left home because I didn't feel like dealing with my dad. I went to stay with a friend of mine who was going to Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester, above New York. It was great. I was taken care of by college girls who would f--- me and give me pot. Then I returned home and informed my parents I was going to live in Amsterdam. [Singer] Nina Hagen had some songs about Amsterdam. It seemed like an incredible place for a punk rocker like me to go.
"My parents said, 'You don't even have a passport.' I said, 'Yes, I do.' They were shocked. I told them on a Wednesday and I left on Saturday. I'd worked at a grocery store and saved up money. I sold my stereo, guitar. I lived in Holland for six months. I lived in abandoned buildings. I figured I should go live in England because they at least speak English. I lived in England for 18 months."
Luke: "How did you survive financially?"
Richard: "Selling hash. I worked as an-house model [at a major department store for affluent private clients such as the Sultan of Brunei)."
Luke: "You never worked as a male prostitute?"
Richard. "No. Where did that come from? Leave it to you to ask that."
Luke: "You've never been asked that before?"
Richard: "Not while telling the story I'm telling now. No, never. I've never been asked that question.
"Then I worked at a lot of nightclubs in New York. I was the doorman at Mars. I never kept one person out of the VIP room. I'm not going to pass judgment. 'You can't come in. You two can but not you.' That's an unbelievably rude thing to do.
"I expanded into music videos and television production. I had an idea for a TV show that Showtime liked and gave me a lot of development money. I couldn't get anything going.
"I worked as a production manager for Eric Mittleman at Playboy from 1992-93. I did not see a naked girl one time while I worked for Playboy."
Luke: "What did you think of Jenny McCarthy?"
Richard: "I liked her. She was unflappable in the face of being hit on by all manner of guys who worked at Playboy. At the Grammy Awards, she dropped what she was doing and talked to me for a long time."
For six months in New York, Richard was virtually homeless. He lived in an office he rented for $100 a month or slept on the kitchen floor at a friend's place, right next to the litter box.
"I had a lot of ideas and a lot of sh---- jobs but not a lot of success. The dotcom thing came along and suddenly a lot of the ideas that I had were easy to manifest. There was money around. Disinfo.com was one of dozens of ideas I had but it was the one that got funded."
Luke: "How did you get the idea for the publishing arm of Disinfo?"
Richard: "At one point, we were owned by the Razorfish company, one of the big dotcom high fliers with a market capitalization of two billion and revenue of about $72 million. We had an amazing design team. There was an opportunity to put a book out [You Are Being Lied To]. While I was working on our first TV show for England, he worked on putting our first book out. We sat down with Adam Parfrey and picked his brains. How many should we print? Adam recommended 6,000 copies. We printed 6,000 and sold 6,000 in two weeks. You Are Being Lied To has sold over 100,000 copies.
[Book of Lies.]
"Around this time, the dotcom boom came to an end and we were wondering how we were going to keep the company afloat. Gary Baddeley made the publishing arm happen so we could fly out of the problem area. There aren't that many dotcoms that have survived. Nerve.com and us."
Luke: "Do any Christian hymns move you?"
Richard: "Not that I can think of. I remember being 20 years old and very badly wanting to be able to feel that I was saved. And just coming to the conclusion that it was only my desire for it to happen. It never did. Who wouldn't want to be touched by divine grace out of the blue? Who wouldn't want God to speak to them?"
Luke: "What is your relationship like with your parents today?"
Richard: "It's OK. I gave my dad a Disinfo T-shirt but I don't think they've looked at my DVDs, or books or website. "They've never asked to see my TV show.
"My sister is a manager at an autoparts chain."
Richard reads more than any member of his family.
He says he has friends going back to age four and has had only a couple of fallings out with longtime friends.
Luke: "What's your favorite song?"
Richard: "Right now I'm obsessed with Miles Davis from 1974-75. He was doing this dark rhythmic astral funk. The weirdest improvisational music I've heard and it is usually written off as the time that 'Miles was on drugs and was out of his mind.' It was ahead of its time."
Luke: "What are your favorite movies?"
Richard: "Wings of Desire (1987) by Wim Wenders. Performance (1970) starring Mick Jagger. Head (1968), the psychedelic movie made by The Monkees. The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) starring David Bowie. I saw that with my mom in Wheeling when I was 11. She was mortified by the sex and nudity. It was an R-rated film. She had to take me in to see it. I was a David Bowie fanatic."
Luke: "She was pretty tolerant that she didn't make you leave. My parents would've made me leave."
Richard: "She was blindsided by it."
Luke: "Are there times when your pursuits put more strain on you than they give back to you?"
Richard: "No, not at all. I have a great job. I do what interests me. I'm able to showcase the work of people I respect and admire. This stuff is not dark. It's what I do. 'Occult' doesn't mean dark. It means hidden. Many of these techniques, heresies, gnosis, whatever you want to call it, are holdovers from the time when people would get burned at the stake for believing these things. These things don't need to be hidden any more. Nobody is going to burn you at the stake because you have a new age belief system. These things are neither light nor dark. They're neutral."
Luke: "Are there things people shouldn't think about?"
Richard: "Did you hear about that cannibal guy in Germany?"
Yes, I heard about it, and I never wanted to hear a word of it. Nor would I choose to read a word of it. I did not want that in my mind.
Richard: "I wouldn't read those articles. I'd read the headline and I knew it was some sick murder s--- and I did not need to put my head there. I find any movie with violence towards women..."
Luke: "Strange Days (1995)."
Richard: "Boom. I was just about to bring that up. I used to work with the girl [Iris] who gets killed in the end. She was a bartender. I was very fond of her. I've known her since I was 19 and to have to watch that scene... That film disgusted. You picked the example I was going to give you. I don't think things like that need to exist.
"More people watch the news if it is bad news. They've done a survey of families living side by side. The family that watches the news is more paranoid and more negative about life. They will be distrustful and believe that they live in a crime-ridden world. It's the world we live in, yes. Do we need to dwell on it? I don't."
Luke: "Have you had significant death threats?"
Richard: "No, only in the beginning. The Internet was new and people didn't know how to find what they were looking for. Disinfo was one of the first professional sites out there. In a world of darkness, a lot of moths are going to come to your flame. We'd link to an Aryan Nations site to make fun of it. They'd come to our site and make threats. We'd get email death threats. It's hard to take that seriously. Everyone's a big man on email."
Luke: "Do you feel like you are still in touch with young people?"
Richard: "I'm not young any more. I'm 38. I'm not going to listen to a young person's music. I don't enjoy books or even journalism written by people younger than I am. Mojo is a great magazine around for ten years but you start to see some 26 year old guy writing about the recording sessions for John Coltraine's Love Supreme. You weren't born then. You don't know. Our products are popular with young people.
"When I was a kid, my heroes were people who were dead. William Burroughs didn't live his life thinking, 'How do I be in tune with the Mallrats?'"
Richard's last girlfriend (five years) was 15 years younger than him.
Luke: "Was there a day when you realized you were no longer young?"
Richard: "No. Something's on your mind.
"There was a time, about four years ago, that I pulled my back out and I put on about 20 pounds. I couldn't exercise any more. I did notice that women weren't looking at me the way they had before.
"The older I get, the more I see the folly of youthful ways of thinking. I remember being 16 and a punk rocker and Ronald Reagen was in office and I was thinking, 'They've just elected a fascist.' That's nonsense. What does a 16 year old know about anything aside from MTV and cars and whatever else they're into. Then you become older and you have to pay taxes and you have employees and have to pay taxes for them... I've never been a joiner with religion or politics. As you age, you get perspective. When you're young, you think, 'Oh, the Republicans are a bunch of Nazis.' No, they're not. There are two narrow goalposts. That's the mainstream and it's where society wants to be. Democrats and Republicans are in the same amount of wars. What's the biggest difference between Clinton and Bush? Personal style. The Europeans are so anti-Bush is because he seems like a cowboy.
"I once worked on a political campaign - for Jerry Brown. I would never do it again. It's all about personality. It's not going to change lives whether the president is John Kerry or George Bush.
"I know that you define conservatism as being proactive. That society should do things to protect itself and make things more cohesive. I agree with you that pornography is negative. But I like it. I consume it. Do I know that it is bad like cigarettes? Definitely. No matter how you slice it, when you have a drink of alcohol or smoke a cigarette, it is not good for you. Too much of that, and you're going to become an alcoholic and get lung cancer. Too much pornography and you are going to become a moral pariah or a crazed loner with a messy keyboard. Or you will become one of those guys who just don't know how to relate to women any more. There's nothing wrong with them but they can't perform with a woman. As a conservative, you might say, well, let's put some limits on that. I wouldn't say that. I don't think you can go backwards."
Luke: "What do you think should be the age of consent?"
Richard: "Eighteen but for pornography for girls, 21 or 23. How many girls when they are 21 know what they are doing when they consent to an Anabolic gangbang?"
We step outside for a walk. Richard directs us to a newsstand. I buy Rolling Stone.
Richard takes me into a poster and art shop. He discusses such artists as Joel Coleman with the owner. I know nothing about art.
Richard takes me into a shoe shop.
3:06PM. Richard takes me into a clothes store, Banana Republic. He asks for dress shirts on sale. There aren't any. We leave.
Richard says he's worn a blazer every day since third grade. He's the classic metrosexual.
We walk by Morgan Fairchild sitting at an outdoor restaurant. She looks hot. She was a fantasy object during our teens.