AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. B. BANZAI
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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....
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
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