Charles Busch made a name for himself as a playwright and a leading lady in drag with productions like the off-Broadway cult classic Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. That campy theatrical spoof was followed by Psycho Beach Party and Pardon My Inquisition, or, Kiss the Blood off My Castanets. Busch also appeared in the TV show Oz where he plays a cross- dressing homosexual who smothers his Mafia cellmate. When it comes to playing male roles, Busch says he’s nothing great. It’s when he puts on gowns and wigs that his imagination really takes flight. We talk about glamorous wigs and how Busch made money as a sex worker before he became an overnight sensation on stage. “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Jackie Schwartz. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Paulina Porizkova, who was a supermodel in the 80s, has one of those rags to riches stories which she talked with me about on “Now What?” in December 2022. That conversation has just been honored with a Clarion award for Best Podcast given by the Association of Women in Communications. Life has not always been star turns for Paulina who was born in Eastern Europe. She began modeling in Paris at the age of 15. When she was 19, she met her future husband Ric Ocasek, lead singer of the Cars. We talk about Paulina’s memoir Unfiltered: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful and what it takes to reinvent yourself when you’re in your 50s. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Jackie Schwartz. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
*Photo By David Sedlecký
When it comes to the word prolific, Walter Mosley fits right in. He’s written about 60 books. His latest is the sci-fi novella Touched. Mosley’s first work of crime fiction, Devil in a Blue Dress, features the character of a black private detective named Easy Rawlins who lives in the Watts neighborhood of LA. It was made into a film starring Denzel Washington. Mosley was also brought up in LA with a Jewish mother and an African American father. Growing up as an only child, Mosley has said his writing imagination might come from an emptiness in his childhood that he filled up with fantasies. It's a question we explore in this episode of “Now What?” which is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Roz Chast is an award-winning cartoonist who started working for the New Yorker 45 years ago. Her comics examine our everyday neuroses and anxieties. As an only child growing up in Brooklyn, Chast worried that a fire could break out in the wall and burn up her family. Or that she’d suddenly have an appendicitis attack and wind up in the hospital like Madeleine in that children’s story. Chast hates to drive and is terrified of changing lanes. Now, she’s written a book called I Must be Dreaming about her nightmares and all the wacky things that go on in our heads while we’re asleep. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Avi Loeb is probably the most famous practicing astronomer in the country. He’s the founding director of Harvard University’s Black Hole Initiative and was the longest-serving chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy. Now, Loeb is also one of the most controversial astronomers in the country. In 2018, he proposed that an object named Oumuamua that had been detected by a telescope in Maui may have been a probe from an alien civilization. Earlier this year, Loeb claimed to have recovered material from an interstellar meteor that could be evidence of an alien starship. Some of Loeb’s colleagues accuse him of making wild and sensational claims. So, what do you think? “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Gay Talese is known for his dapper wardrobe and distinctive writing style. He became famous as a writer who helped to define the New Journalism in the 1960s. He wrote block buster best sellers like Honor Thy Father about the Bonanno crime family. The Voyeur’s Motel focuses on a motel owner who spied on his guests. Talese also calls himself a voyeur. He spent 8 years researching Thy Neighbor’s Wife, his book about sex in America. That research included managing a massage parlor and living in a nudist colony. Now, 91-year old Gay Talese has written a new book called Bartleby and Me. Sitting on his elegant leather sofa in his Manhattan townhouse, I asked Gay Talese to tell me about all the outrageous things he’s done in his life. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
She used to make her living standing in Harvard Square as a statue known as the Eight Foot Bride. Now, Amanda Palmer is the leader of the punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls. And she’s not afraid to tell you what’s on her mind. Her fans are passionate about her. Palmer has 1 million followers on X (formerly Twitter) and 10,000 patrons on Patreon who support her work. She’s open, honest and outrageous. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick CIavatta.
Ben Smith had a front row seat to momentous shifts in the media that changed newspapers and magazines forever. In the early 2000s, readers began flocking to websites like Gawker and the Huffington Post for gossip, news and information. After Smith became the founding editor of BuzzFeed News, he decided to publish the Steele Dossier, the controversial report containing allegations about a conspiracy between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. We talk about Traffic, Smith’s book about the media revolution and the race to go viral. “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
John Waters is having a moment. The filmmaker, who's also known as the Prince of Puke and the Duke of Dirt, is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He says he hopes it will be near the one celebrating Alvin and the Chipmunks. Plus, LA’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is honoring Waters with an exhibit that features some of his old cameras and props like the exploding wig worn by Debbie Harry in Hairspray, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. And Waters will be making another movie, his first in more than 18 years. It’s based on his book Liarmouth, a novel that includes stories of satanic babies and tickle fetishism. We talked about why John Waters paints on his mustache and what it means to be weird in this conversation from May 2022. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Patrick McAndrew. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
At 6 feet 8 inches tall, people say Jim Comey could have been a basketball player. Instead, he became the top law enforcement official when President Barack Obama appointed him FBI Director and he led an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. After concluding that there was no national security breach, less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey said the case had been reopened. Many people blame him for Clinton’s election loss. Then his new boss, Donald Trump, fired him. Now Jim Comey is a novelist. He tells all on “Now What?” which is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Cameryn Yarber. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Dave Barry wrote a humor column in the Miami Herald for more than 20 years that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He also writes books. His latest is called Swamp Story. It’s very funny with a totally ridiculous plot that takes place in the Everglades. There's a character who runs around pretending to be a creature called the Melon Monster and a support boar, as in wild pig, who pees on a politician during a press conference. Barry has also played lead guitar in a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders. His band mates include other writers such as Stephen King and Scott Turow. A man of many talents, Barry and I share a lot of laughs in this conversation. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Cameryn Yarber. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
In June 2023, something shocking happened to Nicole Daedone, founder of OneTaste, which was once one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. OneTaste defined itself as a sexuality-focused wellness company dedicated to spreading the word about OMing or orgasmic meditation. That’s a practice that involves an individual methodically stroking a partner’s clitoris. Federal prosecutors indicted Daedone on charges of forced labor conspiracy. The government alleges that she “intentionally recruited individuals who had suffered prior trauma.” Daedone pleaded not guilty and faces up to 20 years in prison. I spoke to Daedone in November 2022 in a wide-ranging discussion of women’s sexuality and the claims leveled against her involving sexual abuse. You won’t want to miss what she has to say. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Cameryn Yarber. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Andrew McCarthy was still a teenager when he acted in his first film and became a member of what’s called the Brat Pack. That’s the group of actors including Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald who starred in 1980s films like Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire. There were a few bumps along the road like drinking too much alcohol and taking drugs before McCarthy became a travel writer. McCarthy also directs episodes of TV series like Orange is the New Black. And he walked 500 miles across Spain with his teenage son, an adventure he writes about in a new book called Walking with Sam. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Cameryn Yarber. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
She’s a long-time activist for women’s rights and she’s also a Founding Editor of Ms. Magazine. Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of 12 books including How to Make it In a Man’s World. Her latest is called Shanda which means shame in Yiddish. It’s about the secrets families keep and the ones that Pogrebin uncovered that wound up changing her own life. Pobregin begins her book by revealing a story about how she had to confront her own shame after she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. And why she felt she had to hide the news at all costs. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Julian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
It’s hard for me to believe that “Now What?” has just celebrated its 100th episode. We marked the occasion with a first: a conversation taped in front of a live audience at the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn. V (formerly Eve Ensler) and creator of “The Vagina Monologues” told stories about her remarkable life. The room was filled with fans of the podcast, friends and family. And as the conversation unfolded, we were all bound by a sense of togetherness and community. Now you’ll get to be a part of it, too. “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Julian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle became an international bestseller that sold over 5 million copies. Walls’ father Rex was an alcoholic who dreamed of inventing a gold-detecting gizmo that would make him rich enough to build a glass castle. The family moved around a lot, usually before the rent came due. At one point Jeannette and her siblings were left at their grandparents’ house where they often had to scrounge food from garbage cans. Now Walls has written a novel called Hang the Moon. about a gutsy young woman who becomes a rum runner during Prohibition. We talk about what it’s like to grow up poor and how your life changes when you become very, very rich. “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Jullian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
She was my first guest on “Now What?” and now she’s come back to help me celebrate the 100th episode. There’s no one quite like Gloria Steinem. But don’t call her an icon. She doesn’t like it. Gloria thinks of herself as a writer and an activist. She dressed up as a Playboy bunny for a Show Magazine article to tell the intimate story of what it’s like to be treated as an object at work. She was an important leader of the wave of feminism that changed the world in the 1960s and 70s and she’s the author of numerous books including Revolution from Within and My Life on the Road. We talk about women’s rights and what Gloria is wearing these days. “Now What?’ is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Jullian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
She comes from a famous musical family. And she’s always felt like she was number 4 on the totem pole behind her brother Rufus, her father Loudon Wainwright III and her mother Kate McGarrigle. These days Martha has come into her own, talking about her life in a memoir called Stories I Might Regret Telling You. There are tales about her parent’s divorce and Martha’s wild days as a druggie, drinker and party goer. She also talks about how she got comfortable in her own skin and how much she loves being the mother of two boys. In a conversation that’s honest, funny and raw Martha Wainwright bares all. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy Little and Jullian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Tig Notaro had been doing stand-up for more than 10 years when she got up on stage in 2012, grabbed the mic and began her set with these words: “Hello, Good evening. Hello. I have cancer.” Many critics called the set historic and ground breaking. When it was released as an album called “Live” it shot to number 1 on the comedy charts. in her Netflix special “Boyish Girl Interrupted” Tig went further. She unbuttoned her white shirt, sharing her mastectomy scars with the audience. Now she’s married and has twin boys and remains an unusual comedian. You’ll find out more about what makes Tig Notaro tick. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Lucy little and Julian Androkae. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Bruce Jackson grew up in a public housing project in Manhattan and got arrested when he was 10. Some of his friends became drug dealers but Jackson went on to become the first person in his family to go to college. After earning a law degree from Georgetown, Jackson represented hip hop figures like LL Cool J, Heavy D and Busta Rhymes before leaving music behind to take a high-powered corporate job at Microsoft. We talk about Jackson’s book Never Far from Home and what it means to grow up African American and poor in New York City, striving to grab the brass ring on the carousel that means you’ve arrived. “Now What?” is produced with help from Steve Zimmer, James Napoli and Andreea Coscai. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
When the U.S. was hit by the Covid 19 pandemic, President Trump often praised unproven treatments. While trying not to contradict Donald Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the country, became a calming presence, advocating practical remedies like social distancing. He also became the target of right-wing conspiracy theorists who sent him death threats. I talk to Dr. Fauci about his role in developing treatments for once-fatal diseases like AIDS and how his life changed in the challenging years of the Trump administration. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Andreea Coscai and James Napoli. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Judy Woodruff got her start in the news business at a time when you didn’t see many women on the air. Her first job was getting coffee for her bosses at a local TV station in Atlanta. That was nearly 50 years ago and she’s covered Presidents and crises ever since. She’s also spent the last decade as an anchor on the PBS NewsHour. No happy talk, no screaming and yelling. She’s even been parodied on Saturday Night Live. We talk about how she’s handled tragedy in her life and we laugh about the good times, too. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Alex Wolfe and Andreea Coscai. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Dani Shapiro is a writer who is very interested in family secrets. After Shapiro sent a sample of her saliva to a DNA company to find out more about her heritage, the results that came back rocked her world. Shapiro discovered that the man she spent her life calling dad was not her biological father. We talk about identity, what we hide from one another and the family secrets in Shapiro’s new novel Signal Fires. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Alex Wolfe and Andreea Coscai. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
Welcome to 2023. It’s a good time to take a fresh look at who we are and how we might want to change. Dr. Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist and a Buddhist. In his new book, The Zen of Therapy, Epstein writes about how he uses his spiritual beliefs to help his patients understand the importance of their own personal and unique stories. We talk about the need to laugh at ourselves and how to feel comfortable in our own skin. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Alex Wolfe and Andreea Coscai. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.
She’s been called one of the most beautiful women in the world. Paulina Porizkova also had what many considered a fairy tale marriage to Cars lead singer Ric Ocasek. But after Ocasek died in 2019, the former supermodel found she’d been cut out of his will. Porizkova writes about that in No Filter: The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful. We talk about what it takes to recover from grief and heal from a deep sense of betrayal. “Now What?” is produced with the help of Steve Zimmer, Alex Wolfe and Andreea Coscai. Audio production is by Nick Ciavatta.