On The Record: The Best (Worst) Man
You may not know this, but I tend to write a lot of stories about Fall Out Boy . And by a lot, I mean volumes. Like, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 over the past four years, at the very least. And not surprisingly, most of these stories have tended to be about — or at least revolve around — Pete Wentz.
When he took Sidekick pics of his junk , I wrote about it. A lot. When he battled a bouncer in New Mexico, I filed at least three stories about the incident (one of which featured the headline “Pete Wentz’s Punch-Out”). The same goes for the time he pounded a partygoer in Chicago (plus bonus coverage of the subsequent lawsuit).
When he opened bars in New York, DJed at clubs in Las Vegas and threw fundraisers for Barack Obama in Chi-Town, I covered them with the tenacity of a cub reporter. And when he’s decided to boycott the Grammys or make an ill-fated trip to Antarctica, well, let’s just say I’ve been more than willing to capture the subtle nuances of each. Over and over again.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. In many ways — OK, in pretty much all of them — Pete Wentz has made my job here really easy. He is like a constant font of headlines, and covering him is a full-time gig — one that’s kept me fat, happy and off the dreaded 311/Hoobastank beat. And for that, I pretty much owe him the most gigantic debt of gratitude imaginable.
Of course, as an added bonus, I’ve also gotten to know Pete pretty well. I’ve met his folks and been to his childhood home. We e-mail regularly about inane bull. We’ve eaten dinners together. He is a good dude, and I have no problem saying that he’s my friend, except that 1) we don’t spend three hours a day discussing fantasy baseball; 2) by saying that, I’m basically breaking every guideline in the “Ethical Journalist” handbook (not to mention totally violating the Lester Bangs principle in “Almost Famous”); and 3) he didn’t invite me to his wedding .
Let me explain. See, the past month has been rather strange for me. When news of Wentz’s engagement to Ashlee Simpson first broke, I was rather conflicted. On one hand, the reporter in me was happy that MTV News got the story, and got it right. On the other, I had spoken to Wentz earlier that day for a completely different story , and he failed to mention his plan to pop the question. This sort of bothered me, because, hey, we’re friends, right? (Aren’t we?) And friends tend to tell each other these sort of things.
And it didn’t stop there. Over the next few weeks, I was inundated with joking e-mails from my coworkers asking if I was going to be invited to the wedding. Of course, I laughed them off at first, because, seriously, why would I be? I’m a reporter, remember? You know, the enemy. Only deep down inside, I had a strange feeling, one that only grew as the e-mails persisted. Eventually, it became fairly obvious that most people believed there was a genuine possibility I might really get invited. And I started to agree with them; after all, they all weren’t crazy. Pete and I were pals!
Quickly, I began running through potential gift ideas in my head (matching hoodies?). I wondered aloud if I should get my suit dry-cleaned. And I checked my mailbox each night, hoping in some childlike way that there’d be a frilly little envelope stuffed inside: “Joe and Whatever-Ashlee’s-Mom’s-Name-Is Simpson cordially invite you, etc, etc, etc … Please RSVP before etc, etc, etc.” It was all very weird. I’m sure lines were being crossed. And I’m not sure what that says about me as a reporter.
Because as someone much wiser than me (Chuck Klosterman) once said, a good journalist will never believe that he’s “friends” with anyone he interviews, because 1) it means you’ve lost your edge, since the best reporters are the most adversarial; and 2) the relationship between the two sides never exists in reality. A journalist and a subject are brought together only under pre-arranged conditions (i.e. a publicist sets up an interview/shoot at a given time and location — usually a suite in a hotel or something) and never spend time together of their own accord. Therefore, any relationship is pure fantasy. And he’s right. I think.
In the end, it didn’t really matter, because it turned out that I didn’t get the Golden Invite. Pete and Ashlee married this past weekend in Los Angeles, and I wasn’t there. Honestly, I’m completely fine with that — if not a little bummed. I’ve read all the reports, and it sounds like a completely lovely, totally amazing affair. (Shoot, how could any wedding that features an “Alice in Wonderland” theme and the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys not be?)
But I’m also sort of relieved I wasn’t on the list, because I keep wondering what would’ve happened if I were to have gone? Would I have been loyal to my friend, and not reported on everything I saw? Or would I have listened to the journalist inside of me and, you know, live-blogged the ceremony or something? (Scoops Montgomery strikes again!) Oh, the quandary!
So, Pete, in the end, I think you did me a favor by not inviting me to the wedding. You reminded me what it means to be a journalist — and a friend (you’re such a smart dude!). I still have my job, and I can still count you as my friend (don’t tell anyone, though). All is forgiven because we’re pals. Or not. I’m a professional, after all.
Slightly Less Than a Half-Dozen of My Favorite Things on the Internet This Week, So Named for a Post-Rock Group That No One Probably Remembers
1. Dan Suh’s Unofficial “Free R. Kelly” Muxtape: Fall Out Boy’s former road manager/ mascot (Wentz calls him “The Korean Tom Cruise”) drops an unofficial, no-samples-cleared mix of R’s greatest hits, in the hopes of freeing him from persecution. Or something. True story: Dan has been to R. Kelly’s house on several occasions and has seen him play basketball against Bow Wow and Chris Brown. For real.
2. Beck’s “Chemtrails,” from Modern Guilt: Aaaaand, let the backlash begin. People always seems to have a problem with mopey ,ethereal Beck — as long as it’s not on Sea Change, that is — and he’s really mopey and ethereal here. For the record, I don’t think this song is nearly as bad as everyone else seems to, but then again, I really miss the Beta Band.
3. The Hold Steady’s “Sequestered in Memphis,” from Stay Positive: The pealing organ. The bawling saxophone. The wailing guitar. The gang vocals. The sweaty dance floor. The messy bathroom stall. The beautiful bar light. Subpoenaed in Texas. Sequestered in Memphis. In other words, it’s just like every Hold Steady song ever. Only better.
4. Belle and Sebastian’s “Piazza, New York Catcher”: A tribute to former New York Mets great Mike Piazza, who announced his retirement earlier this week. “Are you straight, or are you gay?” Stuart Murdoch wonders. Who gives a sh–. Dude played 16 seasons, hit 427 home runs and was a 12-time All-Star. Farewell, sweet prince.
5. Phish at the Ranch, Shelburne, Vermont, May 20, 1987, from Goldenfiddle.com: Amazing because a) this was 21 years ago; b) Trey Anastasio sort of looks like Weird Al; c) the solo at 3:21; d) the fact that some dude walks right in front of the camera as said solo begins. Proof that hippies have always been totally amazing, even in the late ’80s, when you didn’t even know there were hippies.
Questions? Concerns? Wedding Evites? Send ’em to me at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.