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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Euthanize Your Idols

The thirty thousand square foot Parisian home sits atop a hill and peers down, like Vanna White's ex-husband's ghost, upon a landscape of chaos and failure. Its new inhabitant has added some personal touches, but the house is silent, organized, and exactly three stories with the promise of a cupola when necessary.

I meet Woody Allen on the second floor, having been given a tour of the first by a funny personal assistant who kept making Dostoevsky jokes.

"We're currently in France," I said after a particularly tart Notes from the Underground riff.

"I am within the Allies," was the response. Fair enough.

On the second floor, Allen approaches me. He is a small man, bent to be smaller, and wearing a simple ensemble: sport coat, fisherman's cap, plaid shirt, a tie, large-cord corduroys, argyle socks, a standard breathing facilitator, four vein tenders (his one luxury), and blue Keds. For a man of 236, he looks healthy, if a bit tired.

For a moment we just stand. I'm told that one must let Allen speak first. When conducting interviews, it is customary to be polite to the subject and make sure the subject is comfortable. So I wait. The personal assistant smiles at me, bows to a corner of the room where no one is standing, and exits the room.

Allen and I are alone. Staring. Waiting.

The room is elaborately austere. Parisian sun spills in at a deceptive angle, resulting in a pool of sunlight that glances off the wood floor and bounces off the skylight, which lingers above us like a cat with narcolepsy. There are rubber plants denied a chance to bounce, and real plants so confused by the room that they have turned their leaves toward the bright white walls. A television hovers above a peach couch with a Fatty Arbuckle film playing less-than-silently.

"I, you know, didn't expect you. Didn't expect you so early. I was." Allen gestures to his breathing facilitator. "I was snorkeling earlier."

It is his first joke. The rubber plants shake a bit, and I know this will be an easy interview.

This was not an easy interview. When it was first assigned to me, I attempted to get out of it. After all, I remember what the 1990s were like. Sexual crimes were popular then. There were only two sexes. "I'm nearly 300 years old," I explained to my editor, who reminded me he was pushing 500 and that his prostate was now a corsage on his shoulder.

"Marc. I know this is tough. But it's an interview, it's rare, and it's on. You're going. You've always wanted to go to France, right?"

"But he... did things I don't want to discuss. With him. And if I'm asking him questions, I'll have to ask. And I don't want to ask."

"So talk about his house. I just need three columns and a picture."

So I'm talking about his house. It is three levels. It is in Paris. I have not yet seen Soon Yi, or their children, or their famous 32 tiny horses that roam the premises. There are a few Oscars on a mantle, several thousand film posters on the walls, and a very disconnected elderly man pointing at rubber plants.

"So. Mr. Allen." I smile. "Can we sit down? Is it okay if I sit down?"

Mr. Allen, as you would expect--as you've seen him do since his 2123 blockbuster 'Bullets Over My Attic Couch'--gestures to the one open window. "Have a, you know. Tsch. Have a seat."

Confidently, I move to the open ledge of the window, and the air pushes into my back like a hundred hands, holding me aloft, scented with the scent of a thousand Frenchmen. I sit on the narrow threshold of window/not-window, and ask my first question.

"It's been nearly 200 years since the Dylan allegations. How do you think it has affected your work?"

Allen moves to the couch, bumping his head on the television floating above it. His contact with the TV immediately shuts off the Arbuckle film. The television floats above him like a blank abyss.

"It's. Tsch. You know, I haven't thought about those things in centuries." One of the four vein tenders digs deep, turns bright red, and is expelled. He replaces it with a flourish worthy of Alvy Singer. "To this day, I'm not sure what to think. It's like death, and my, you know, my fear of death. Who knew you could not die? That was a century and a half ago."

Allen goes silent. His assistant, sensing a lull, enters the room, gives us water, and leaves.

"The water is good." I say this honestly. I say this gratefully.

"It's a luxury. I know." Allen seems almost embarrassed. "We ship it in off-planet. Don't worry. It is filtered. We filter it first."

"So you once did a movie where your love interest was 17 years old. I believe you were 40 at the time."

"Yes. And she was in such small portions."

"I'll just ask. It's been 200 years."

"Small portions... I meant my vein tender. Tsch. Give me a second."

As he changes his tender, I take a moment to review my notes, which are mostly blank. My butt hurts--a window frame is less comfortable than it appears.  Also a lot more narrow. Small portions.

"Changed." Allen  leans towards me. "So you were asking."

"Yes. You're a child molester, right?"

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