My Secret Life: David Johansen, musician, 60

Interview,Charlotte Philby
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:21

My parents were ... They met at the old Barnes and Noble store on 17th Street in Manhattan, where they both worked. My father was a Norwegian tenor and my mother a New York Irish librarian.

The house/flat I grew up in ... Until I was six years old we lived in the projects, then my two brothers and three sisters and I moved to a three-bed that my mother's father built.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... As I recall, my life as a child was so all-consuming that I barely had time to consider the future.

If I could change one thing about myself ... my metaphysical inclination wouldn't always come up short against my frivolity.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... maintaining a quality of mind that nimbly transcends the quagmire of its conveyance.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... singing.

At night I dream of ... When I'm sleeping I do a lot of living.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I see the reality that sarcasm alone renders tolerable.

My favourite item of clothing ... is something belonging to my girlfriend, but I think only my doctor, she and I have seen it.

I wish I'd never worn ... this gem-encrusted, bleeding sacred heart of Jesus Christ wrist watch, which I bought in Philadelphia and which gave me a terrible rash.

It's not fashionable but I like ... doo-wop. Especially Nolan Strong & the Diablos and the Ravens and the Larks.

My house is ... an outlawed village in China. It's a work in progress, always evolving, like a work of art it is changing all the time.

My favourite building ... There was this place next door to my mother's house; when I was about eight years old all the members of the alcoholic family who lived there died in quick succession. I managed to get inside and discovered hundreds of empty bottles in the basement and made a concoction out of the dregs. I'll never forget that place.

My favourite work of art ... Lorenzo Lotto's 'Allegory of Virtue of Vice' in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

A book that changed me ... Oh, what's that book by Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Movie heaven ... would be watching 'Callas Forever' – a film by Zeffirelli, one from the 'They Saved Hitler's Brain' genre – in a movie theatre, with like-minded Callas people.

I drive/ride ... a busted old dinosaur of a car.

My greatest regret ... would have to be that I'm neither unhappy enough to be a poet nor indifferent enough to be a philosopher, but lucid enough to be a condemned man.

My real-life villain ... is one Mohamed Atta, the leader of the September 11 attacks ... It's a long story.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is Emil Cioran, the Romanian aphorist philosopher who wrote after being nailed to the cross of atheist spirituality something like: "We are in our intermediary stage linking the paradise of childhood to the inferno of failure".

The last time I cried ... I cried a bit last week, when Nancy Pelosi finessed the health reform act. But not as much as Joe Biden.

My five-year plan ... is to visit Hawaii more often.

My life in six words ... In part of the out crowd.

A life in brief

Born on Staten Island, New York, on 9 January 1950, David Johansen was lead singer of the legendary 1970s protopunk band the New York Dolls. Following the band's split in 1977, Johansen enjoyed commercial success as a solo artist under the pseudonym Buster Pointdexter. In 2004 – despite several of the band's key members having died – Johansen reformed the Dolls to great acclaim. He currently lives in New York with his girlfriend. The New York Dolls play London's KOKO on Monday

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