The fabulist author has got friends in low places. Really.
Wed May 14 2008
Illustration: Rob Kelly
Other than a recent feature in Vanity Fair, James Frey has kept a low profile since his January 2006 televised smackdown by Oprah Winfrey. That infamous episode came, of course, shortly after the muckraking website the Smoking Gun found numerous inaccuracies in his best-selling addiction memoir, A Million Little Pieces, and shamed not only Frey but the publishing industry as a whole. This week, the 38-year-old New York resident will face both fans and foes when he sets out on a tour to promote his new book, Bright Shiny Morning—which Frey unequivocally and absolutely promises is complete fiction.
Time Out New York: In Vanity Fair, you said you weren't doing any more press. What gives?
James Frey: There are two answers to that. The first is that I felt more comfortable doing that interview than I expected to. And second, my publisher asked me to do more press, and it's my job to do what my publisher asks me to do.
TONY: Are you nervous about reading in public?
James Frey: Of course I'm nervous. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. I'm sure there'll be some people there who want to yell at me.
TONY: There could be a riot.
James Frey: Well, I hope there's no riot. But if there is, at least I know I'll be safe.
TONY: Right. You hired the Hells Angels to handle security on the book tour.
James Frey: Yes. At some of the venues.
TONY: Do you really need security?
James Frey: We don't know. I do get pretty harsh hate mail.
TONY: Like what?
James Frey: Some guy sent me a letter saying he hoped I got ass cancer and died in front of my wife and kid. I got another that said, "I want to cut your head off and shit down your neck."
TONY: Wow, maybe you do need security. It would suck to be decapitated and then used as a toilet.
James Frey: Yeah. Obviously I hope that never happens. It would be pretty unpleasant. Although once my head came off, I guess I wouldn't have to deal with any of the rest of it.
TONY: Why the Hells Angels?
James Frey: I wrote a movie about the Hells Angels for Tony Scott. I spent time with them. They're fun guys to hang out with. Frankly, they're very intimidating. I feel very safe around them.
TONY: They've given you a nickname, haven't they?
James Frey: They haven't given me a nickname.
TONY: Come on! Not Chuckles? They don't call you Chuckles Frey?
James Frey: No. But if they start calling me that I'll let you know.
TONY: Do the Hells Angels know that you wrote a movie in 1998 named after a George Michael song?
James Frey: What, Kissing a Fool? I don't know. That hasn't ever come up.
TONY: Maybe it shouldn't. Will Father Figure be your next novel, then?
James Frey: Yeah. Or maybe Patience. In big capital letters.
TONY: Do you have any other embarrassing musical influences?
James Frey: New Edition. "Popcorn Love" and "Candy Girl" are classic songs from my childhood. Occasionally in the car I listen to channel 3 on Sirius Radio, which is love songs.
TONY: Really? You strike me as a Hootie and the Blowfish kind of guy.
James Frey: I saw Hootie once at the Wetlands and I gotta say, they actually sorta rocked. And when they played "Hold My Hand," my fist was in the air.
TONY: Do you feel any vindication that only about 1,600 people actually asked for the refund offered by Random House for A Million Little Pieces?
James Frey: You know, I can't discuss any of that. I can't discuss any legal anything.
TONY: Did everybody in your family take their copies back?
James Frey: [Laughs] They might have and didn't tell me. That's pretty funny. I'll call my mom and ask her.
TONY: It seems to me that someone could make a pretty decent living going door to door rounding up copies of your book and returning them.
James Frey: There's probably much easier and less complicated ways to try to make money. But they probably could.
TONY: So. Oprah. Did you send her a copy of Bright Shiny Morning?
James Frey: I certainly didn't. I don't know if my publicist did. I profoundly doubt it.
Bright Shiny Morning (Harper, $27) is out now.