By Reno Nevada, aka Reno of Memphis

Readers well-acquainted with B. Banzai know that bad temperedness is far from his nature. True, there is an honest frankness in his manner which occasionally borders on the brutal, but this is leavened by his usual hearty good-will toward one and all. Indeed, like so many great men ­ Einstein comes to mind ­ the most remarkable quality he possesses, in my humble view, is his simplicity. When he is happy, the sun rises in his face. He bowls merrily on his way from one trying problem to the next with nary a cross word to anyone. But when he angers, however unexpectedly, it is almost to the verge of distraction. The term "havoc" suggests itself, but it is too mild; suffice it to say, his indomitable will, brought to a sufficient head of steam, is terrifying enough to prevent all intelligent description of it.

Of such unpleasant moments, there is little uplifting to be said. The familiar Buckaroo is not recognizable, and I wasn't long in learning that the best procedure is simply to get out of his path, for one does not want to battle B. Banzai at close quarters. One braces for a run, looks for a place of retreat, or, on occasion, even a headfirst plunge out of a window will serve. With a prayer of thankfulness bordering on terror, I once even feigned death like Dr. Livingston lying under the lion's paw, as B. Banzai's bulging eyes, glowing with fire and fury, fixed themselves on me, amid low ominous growlings and a show of his white teeth. My own teeth were meanwhile chattering, as at any second I half-way expected him to give me ten feet of lash, clean the flesh from my bones, and smash those into kindling wood, or at the very least send me supperless to the bunkhouse.

I was therefore enormously gratified and a little bit alarmed, when, on a particular afternoon at the Cask and Flagon, in the shadow of Boston's Fenway Park, nothing of the sort happened. With an eye to the possibility of an upcoming TV series and the millions of faithful fans whose enthusiasm for his return to the popular media has been unflagging, he graciously consented to be interviewed over a wide range of subjects.

Reno: It's been more than three years since the explosion [that took Penny Priddy's life] and eighteen months since you made your last official public appearance. Since then, you've shunned visitors and avoided questions. Why this interview?

Buckaroo: Well, like it or not, at a certain point you realize life goes on. You cry, you bleed, ergo you must be alive, even if you don't feel like admitting it.

R: Now you're talking about guilt.

B: You're right. Lives were lost, and I was the target. In that sense, I'll always second-guess myself.

R: Any theories on those responsible? What's the FBI saying?

B: The same thing I'm saying right now, which is nothing. I don't need the FBI or anyone else to fight my battles, so let's move on.

R: Big Red Sox fan?

B: Do I look like a masochist?

R: You've already answered that question. But you're looking better ­ physically, I mean.

B: You don't look so bad yourself.

R: Then what brings you to Boston?

B: I've given a little money to Harvard, so every year or so they feel obligated to invite me, along with the odd Colombian drug baron....

R: You went to Harvard, right?

B: The Med School. I read at Oxford.

R: What did you read?

B: A bit of everything. Mostly I listened to music.

R: Like what?

B: A lot of blues, the usual suspects. John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightin' Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson....

R: Were you an Apostle?

B: Apostle of what? The blues?

R: That club at Oxford.

B: You're thinking of Cambridge.

R: Yeah, probably. So probably a lot of people who live in Siberia want to know, just who is Buckaroo Banzai?

B: I'm still discovering him. I don't know who he is.

R: What's the best way to describe your guitar playing?

B: Acrobatic, I hope, working without a net.

R: Blues, rockabilly, straight-ahead rock... no wonder.

B: I guess so. I hate labels. It's all music, but, like a lot of players, sometimes as you get better technically, the range of emotion in your playing gets narrower. That's why every so often you need to get back to basics. There's nothing better for the soul than the blues. It's so primal....

R: You'd like to see the Hong Kong Cavaliers get more bluesy?

B: That's not necessarily only up to me.

R: How do you keep in shape?

B: I don't eat what you eat, and I work out.

R: Where?

B: In New York... at Reebok, or Chelsea.

R: The pier or the hotel?

B: Cute. Next question.

R: Are you dating anyone?

B: Yeah, Cindy Adams.

R: You're kidding.

B: Yeah, I am, Cindy Adams.

R: You're calling me Cindy Adams?

B: Ask a stupid question, you get a stupider answer.

R: What's stupid about it? People want to know. What happened to that French sexologist?

B: She lives. But I'm gone.

R: I read somewhere you meditate. It probably helps to be rich.

B: Is that a question?

R: What gets you crazier, a beautiful woman or Eric Clapton?

B: I'm not the jealous type. Anyway, Eric wouldn't cheat on me.

R: That's right. You went on tour with him a few years ago. How was that?

B: Like Harry James, the band leader, when he played Carnegie Hall with Toscanini. They asked him how it felt, and he said he felt like a waitress on a date with a college boy. That's the way it was with Clapton.

R: You were Clapton's waitress?

B: Careful, Reno.

R: What about this new guy Dick Ready, from Rasputin's Daughter? He's played some gigs with the band. Are you trying him out?

B: Nothing official, but he kills.

R: On guitar.

B: Yeah. What'd you think I meant?

R: Who gets more girls, him or Perfect Tommy?

B: What makes you think either one of them gets girls?

R: So there's no ego problems in the band?

B: Not from my end.

R: Speaking of ego, do you have a shrink?

B: Just you, Reno.

R: You don't think you're God?

B: Just his best friend.

R: Are you more jealous of a beautiful woman or...? Wait, I already asked you that. How long have you played guitar?

B: In this lifetime? Since I was eleven.

R: And if you could have only one record on a desert island....

B: If I'm going to be there a long time, it'd better pick me up. Maybe something by Satchmo, or the Original Five Blind Boys of Mississippi... what was it Baudelaire said?

R: About Satchmo?

B: "Man can live without bread, but he couldn't last a week without that righteous jazz."

R: What's the biggest mistake you ever made?

B: Not being born sooner. And maybe this interview.

R: Sabine [my wife] says you have the world's greatest bedroom eyes.

B: And I exploit them shamelessly.

R: No fooling. Besides music, what do you do for fun?

B: You'd be surprised. Bronc-bustin', calf-ropin', egg-chuckin'....

R: God. What's the best thing about being you?

B: Always meeting interesting people.

R: And the worst thing?:

B: Never being alone.

R: Is that a hint for me to leave?

B: If you can't come up with a grown-up question.

R: All right, I'll try to keep it serious. In your new book, Virtual Virtue, your eighty-second....

B: Eighty-fifth.

R: You lament the decline of great causes... civil rights, the anti-war movement, the war on poverty, the exploration of space... and the all-consuming preoccupation with self in today's consumerist culture. What gave birth to these "great causes" to begin with.

B: Twin utopias, unfortunately: the myth of revolution and the myth of progress.

R: These are myths?

B: To the extent that people believe in them as utopias, yes, which is how they were oversold in many cases. By embracing any utopia, we sow the seeds of cynicism when things don't work out as advertised.

R: Not that they've ever been tried.

B: Which is the fallacy, that big change has to happen on an institutional or a national level, and when it doesn't, you have the epidemic of cynicism we have today, with bean counters running the whole shooting match, under the rubric of being realists. But reality and what exists at any given moment are not necessarily one and the same. My reality may be independent of the society around me.

R: So what do we failed idealists do?

B: First, stop being failures. It's absurd to judge ourselves against a scale larger than our own efforts. Do the right thing, help one another, raise the less fortunate, without ulterior motives. Live simply, never lie, never steal, limit personal wealth, donate to charity, meditate, practice self-denial, live a pure life and spend some time as a monk. Above all, don't be afraid of nothingness, because the universe is full of it and therefore it must be natural and good. In this way of being of "no-mind," we escape ajiva and achieve enlightenment.

R: "Reject convention, confront chaos and map it, populating it with concepts, intense singularities, and names for things that happen to us."

B: Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

R: Thank you, Buckaroo. I know you're busy. What's on your desk these days?

B: Let's see... mapping the bottom of Lake Baikal, looking for another Loch Ness bessie over there... we're doing a series on Emily Dickinson for ARTE...

R: ARTE. That's...

B: ...European Cultural Television, the old Canal Sept. We're looking at a new generation of computers... bringing the Teraflop on line this year... a trillion ops a second... and the Petaflop soon to follow... we're studying a new Virgin Mary apparition in a steel plant blast furnace in Poland... we're salvaging one of Drake's treasure ships off South America... we're developing some new experiments for the International Space Station....

R: Thank you, Buckaroo. We get the idea.




(C) 1998, 2002, 2003 MGM/Sherwood Prod, Harry Bailly Prod, & Earl Mac Rauch. All Rights Reserved.