I only know two of the Black Table’s “Big Four,” mainly because I rarely come out of my one-bedroom suburban cubbyhole to work the New York media party circuit. But I have seen the light of day long enough to meet both Aileen Gallagher and Will Leitch.
To the extent I know Aileen, I can tell that she’s of stout constitution. How do I know? It’s the hearty handshake I get whenever we have our standard conversation:
J.K.: Hi, Aileen.
A.G.: Hi, Joel.
J.K.: How goes it?
A.G.: Fine. You?
A.G.: Well, see ya later, Joel.
J.K.: See ya later, Aileen.
I’ve received weaker handshakes from cops and firemen. When I get that squeeze, pictures of her childhood fill my brain: a three-bedroom tenement on the Lower East Side, five older brothers, an angel of a mom, and a dad that looked like Brian Dennehy, all yelling at Aileen to “toughen up” and “grow a pair.” Lots and lots of “good-natured” fighting between her and her brothers. All the while, Aileen dreams of becoming a writer and leaving her hardscrabble life.
That’s exactly how Aileen’s life played out. Either that or I just described the plot to Angela’s Ashes. Not really sure. Again, I don’t know her all that well …
However, I know Will a little better, but not by much. I know, for instance, that he roots for lame football and baseball teams (I mean, really … when was the last time anyone saw a cardinal in Arizona?), and that he outwardly exhibits an Opie-esque aw-shuckness even though he’s as cynical as a New Yorker can get. Just his Deadspin entries alone prove that he can snark it up with anyone; of course, for all I know, Nick Denton is editing out all off the “Gosh-es” and “Golly Gee Willikers-es” from his posts.
He was nice enough, though, to invite me to his place for a Halloween party; I decided to dress up as “Chubby I.T. Guy Pretending to Be a Writer.” On the other hand, I had to admire the intestinal fortitude Will had to muster in order to appear at his party in his chosen costume: Gay Sweaty Batman. I mean, he could have been plain ol’ Batman. I would have even accepted Sweaty Batman. But Gay Sweaty Batman? That took some brass ones to pull off. The blue tights, the fake six-pack… if he had left the party and walked in the Halloween parade in the Village, he would have fit right in.
Oh, and the cowl: by the time I left the party, it was dripping with booze and smelled a little like head cheese; you’d think the man would have taken it off before it started sliding off on it’s own, but no such luck. Again, it probably would have been acceptable on a typical Friday night on Christopher Street, but the puddles on his hardwood floors made it treacherous to walk around.
I do wish all four Black Table editors luck in their endeavors as Actually Paid Writers. If I do get a chance to see Aileen and Will sometime in 2006, I’ll wish them luck in person, right after I stop laughing at Will’s Gay Sweaty Aquaman costume.