Reason.tv Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie is well-respected among conservatives because unlike liberal journalists, he’s willing to debate his beliefs in a public forum. I first met him when we both spoke on a panel about getting America’s youth engaged in politics. Also on the panel were Jonah Goldberg of National Review and Peter Beinart, then with The New Republic. Truthfully, I didn’t belong on the panel, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience Gillespie first-hand.
In my mind, Reason became a rock-star magazine when I saw Drew Carey wear a Reason shirt on his prime-time sitcom. Gillespie started working for the publication in 1993 and became editor in chief in 2000. Along the way he helped establish Reason’s other entities, like the Hit and Run blog, Reason.tv and an overall online presence. He also edited Choice: The Best of Reason, a collection of the magazine’s best articles.
I became a fan of Gillespie in college. Lucky for me it was at a time before administrators could figure out how to block websites like Suck.com. It was one of the first ad-supported websites and included articles on politics and pop culture. Going through Suck.com archives now is sort of like reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential for the first time in 2010. Many writers have since imitated their writing style and attitude. People like Bourdain and Gillespie derive their sarcasm and cynicism from life experiences and work. Many of the imitators derive theirs from Brian on Family Guy and long lines at Starbucks.
I don’t feel that I always have to agree with the people I admire. I just have to find them entertaining and funny. Gillespie fits the bill.
1. If there were a television channel that only showed one movie over and over, what movie should it be?
GILLESPIE: The sadist in me would lean toward Zardoz, the 1974 movie that Sean Connery quit the Bond franchise for and features him in what can only be called a very adult diaper while fighting a giant terra-cotta head from like the biggest Pottery Barn outlet in the year 2525. The tagline was something like, “Beyond 1984, beyond 2001, beyond Love, beyond Death…” It really should have been, “Beyond the absolutely worst movie you could have ever imagined, even with Sean Connery in an adult diaper.”
The movie fan in me might choose Patrick Swayze’s unparalleled triptych of Point Break, Next of Kin, and Roadhouse. I’m also a big fan of Dr. Zaius in the original Planet of the Apes because very few primates can pull off that shade of orange (I mean, just look at the Dalai Lama). Planet of the Apes is a great Straussian allegory about rulers who tell noble lies and heroic individuals who must know the truth. But what I really like about the movie is its happy ending and snappy musical numbers. It’s the feel-good movie of the year!
Seriously, if there were a TV channel that showed the same movie over and over again, I’d wonder what the hell I was doing in Ceausecu’s Romania.
2. What’s one of your favorite movie quotes?
GILLESPIE: I like any Cold War thriller in which any character explains at some point: “Don’t you see, it’s just a game?”
3. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell is strapped in with his eyes propped open and forced to watch images until he was “cured.” If you could give President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Harry Reid the “Clockwork Orange treatment,” what movie would you make them watch? What movie would you make Republican leaders watch?
GILLESPIE: I’d make them watch themselves on C-SPAN. The great baseball pitcher Dennis Eckersley was a boozer and he tells a story of how his kids turned a video camera on him one Christmas morning and when he saw what a drunken jerk he was, he sobered up. Maybe it would work for pols.
4. What pop culture souvenir do you own that people would be surprised to learn that you cherish?
GILLESPIE: I have a GG Allin bobblehead, which I guess is the type of thing people might figure I have. I spend so much time injecting heroin directly into my eyeballs that I don’t have a lot of time for popular culture souvenirs. Unless you count my Malibu Barbie Winnebago, which I keep on my desk at the Reason office.
5. What’s your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
GILLESPIE: I firmly agree with Michel Foucault and Mark Foley that pleasure is by definition guilty. I like watching “30 Minute Meals with Rachel Ray” because I’m waiting for the episode where she doesn’t actually get her slop on the plate by the show’s end. You know what that smells like? It smells like victory.
And I like watching “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” on ABC Family, because it’s the last place in the world where kids are having sex.
But when I want a real break from serious current events programming, I watch MSNBC.
6. Other than yourself, who in D.C. has the best hair?
GILLESPIE: I’d say C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb or Helen Thomas, though in Helen’s case, it’s not clear whose hair it really is.
7. What was the first rock concert you ever attended and where did you sit and who went with you?
GILLESPIE: I saw Andy Williams at the Garden States Art Center in Holmdel, New Jersey and I was taken there against my will by my parents or space aliens. And if you don’t think Andy Williams rocks, well, you didn’t see his version of Neil Young’s “Down by The River,” which he dedicated to Claudine Longet.
8. What is a Snooki?
GILLESPIE: It is the next evolution of the Snuggie; it’s a blanket with armholes that allows you to contract sexually transmitted diseases without having to get off the couch.
9. Many have said that Washington D.C. is like Hollywood for ugly people. How do you think D.C. is like Hollywood? How is it different?
GILLESPIE: Having lived in LA and D.C., I’d have to say that differences are few and far between and constantly exaggerated. The two cities have nothing in common, other than they are packed with conniving bastards who are convinced of their own genius and want to finance everything with other people’s money.
10. Comedians like Joy Behar, Aisha Tyler and Whoopi Goldberg have criticized people like Ann Coulter for putting jokes into their speeches and writing. What role do you think humor has in politics?
GILLESPIE: I would like it if Joy, Aisha, and Whoopi put comedy in their jokes.
11. What books were on your summer reading list?
GILLESPIE: I spent a chunk of time reading Steig Larsson’s trilogy—you know, Girl With Mike Tyson Tattoo, Girl With Urinary Tract Infection, and Girl Who Eats Breakfast at Anne Frank’s International House of Pancakes. I enjoyed them immensely because they were about a political magazine editor who had enormous amounts of random sex while fighting off serial killers and eating like 5,000 sandwiches. Which apart from the sex and the serial killers, pretty much is totally right on when it comes to describing my experiences. Steig Larsson gets it, though I’m afraid that he’s written himself out.
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to enter the political arena.
GILLESPIE: One of the good things about being a libertarian is that you can refuse to enter the political arena, which is about as inviting to normal, decent human beings as a men’s room stall in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
But my first overtly political act was to send a letter to Ronald Reagan’s White House protesting his failure to stand by his campaign promise to end pre-registration for Selective Service. On the hustings (whatever that means), Reagan had even used an apparently fake Lenin quote to the effect that “the uniform is the enemy of liberal democracy and a standing draft will enervate Western nations.” Then he got in office and kept the policy begun by history’s greatest monster, Jimmy Carter. So I wrote to Dutch to tell him that I wasn’t going to register for the draft or fight in any war unless it was a true defensive battle. Which pretty much guaranteed that if the draft was reinstated, I would have gotten a really bad lottery number.
Oh, and I played a fake Arab in the Abscam Scandal. If you look closely in the videos, you can see me handing $10,000 dollars to Sen. Harrison Williams.