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Spit List Recap: Charlie Sheen, Taylor Swift and Recreational Drug Use

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s top moments of the 11th Annual Thanksgiving Spit List.

My post-turkey daze ritual is always the same: first, from my kitchen blackboard, I take down and pack away holiday recipes snipped from the pages of Bon Appétit—this year’s Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze will go in the fan-favorite file along with 2003’s Sweet Potato Brulee and 2001’s Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel.  Then, I can settle in for one more sip of coffee as I reflect on the dinner conversation provided by The Spit List.  Even in the 11th year of the game, the debate was wildly controversial. Here’s a recap of the proceedings.

The Launch.  As tradition holds, I threw out the first pitch: Rupert Murdoch, for using his media empire to advance a debilitating Republican agenda and fanning the flames of the Tea Party insanity.  For background: I launched a quiet protest a few months ago by boycotting the mogul’s media properties.  Honestly, I’d never been a big reader of WSJ so that was easy.  And Fox News?  Please.  What channel is that anyway?  But the New York Post was more complicated—leaving behind PageSix was hard enough (I’m a bold-faced name there after all), but not getting my Michael Reidel Broadway gossip fix was excruciating.  So, I decided I could read that online—for free.  When I fretted to Chef that I felt like I was cheating since I love Fox TV’s Glee, he helpfully suggested that I just not frequent the advertisers for that show.  Since I don’t use Dove hair care products, that sounded like a plan I could get behind.

Pop-Culture.  Speaking of Glee, that phenomenon surfaced multiple times in the always sure to provoke incredulous protests: the Pop-Culture Category.  Scott wanted to spit on Glee’s Rachel and Fin for promoting “too much of a wholesome, all-American image.”  While Jimmy from Madison Facebooked (yes, I did, I made it a verb) in his nomination of Artie—Glee’s differently enabled character, “his character is way too white and geeky to be singing all the cool male vocals.  And, for God’s sake, get him some new glasses and stop wearing those ugly sweaters!”  The table nearly came unglued, until I read Jimmy’s other nomination—Taylor Swift.  Everyone agreed with Jimmy’s assessment, “she can’t sing live if her life depended on it.”  My own nomination of Dancing with the Stars—for giving ridiculous individuals like Bristol Palin some kind of platform—was followed up more specifically by Scott who objected to Jennifer Grey and her nose.  Darrell chimed in with Charlie Sheen, not because he’s just generally out-of-control, but for his unnecessary use of the N** word.  Mike took Charlie’s actions a step further expressing frustration with a class of people who mistreat sex workers.

Social Network.  Nobody at the table seemed to understand my distaste for Kanye West’s Tweets and the ridiculous amount of media attention it has generated.  Really New York Magazine?  So I was happy when Aimee Skyped in from Kabul (she didn’t really, she emailed from Afghanistan, but I just wanted to be Oprah for a second) with her unhappiness for the person responsible for Sarah Palin’s blog who wrote something like, “I hope we drove Democrats crazy by having Bristol as a final contestant on Dancing with the Stars!!”  Damn, there’s that show again.  As Aimee said the woman is crazy not only for dedicating her life to that “whack-a-doo” but also for “thinking that a lame e-list celebrity dancing show will have serious political ramifications.  Dumb-ass.”

Show Stumpers.  Aimee contributed Diandra Douglas to this category reserved for nominations that need added explanation.  Most at the table needed me to explain the background on Michael Douglas’ wife filing a financial compensation lawsuit long after her divorce was finalized—while her son was going to prison, and Michael was off to chemo.  I’m sure she’ll be a contestant on DWTS soon—and then everyone will agree.  Also in this section, Werner nominated Porsche.  Not the car—or a misspelling of Ellen’s wife—but the Fire Island/Key West drag queen songstress.  To be fair, Werner asked for a rule clarification if Porsche would be considered famous enough for the Spit List.  I reluctantly allowed it only because she was briefly Wanda Sykes’ side kick on the comedian’s brief talk show foray.  Porsche’s offense?  Squandering her talent evidently—Werner objects to her deteriorating Ice Palace performance from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  Gay boys can be tough, I’m telling you.

Show Stoppers.  This is like the Best Picture Oscar—it’s the big kahuna.  The nomination that stops conversation cold.  It was inaugurated several years back when Angela nominated Trig Palin, Sarah’s down syndrome child.  She didn’t like the child being used as a prop—and she also didn’t necessarily believe the child was Sarah’s.  Well, stone cold silence at the table.  Last year, Scott won this category with Rihanna—in the midst of her Chris Brown beating controversy.  He didn’t like her haircut, but still, spitting on a gal when she’s down is pretty strong.  But he stood by it.  This year, hands down, the Show Stopper award goes to Chef for his nomination of a class known as “Recreational Drug Users.”  With a table full of gay boys, including me, who have partied their way around the globe—from Sydney’s Mardi Gras to Montreal’s Black and Blue—you could have heard a pin drop.  But Chef soldiered on, “Believe me, I’m all for legalizing drugs.  But that’s not going to happen here.  And in the meantime, drug use in America is ravaging my home country of Mexico.  It’s tearing it apart.  So every time someone takes a sniff or pops a pill, you are killing someone back in Mexico.”  We all paused for a second to take that in.  Then someone asked, “Could you wait until after New Year’s maybe?”  And then someone else started in on Gwyneth Paltrow and of course we were back to Glee.

But I looked across the table at Chef and smiled.  Proud that he had spoken up and taken an important stand.  We might have been laughingly playing The Spit List, but for a brief moment, the game provided a reminder of the relative comfort and safety we enjoy in America—and that it comes with a privilege.  A duty to say “thanks.”  It’s our freedom that allows us to even have something like The Spit List.  Who knew that 11 years ago, Chloe Sevigny and Scarlett Johansson would lead to this?

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Scarlett Letter

Today on Alphabet City: An original Spit List fixture takes a final bow. Guest Star: Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber.

Scarlett Johansson has been officially removed from my Spit List.  While many of you can breathe easier now, others are probably confused and might want to bone up on my go-to game of celebrity distaste.  The Spit List debuts in “Episode 11: Bold Faced Names” of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life and also in this Thanksgiving blog post.

Since the creation of the Spit List (SL), I’ve discovered that the easiest way for an actor to move away from any wet loogies is to turn in a laudable performance.  To be honest, Scarlett has been headed off the SL for quite some time mostly helped by Woody Allen.  But it was her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge that sealed her exit.  Chef, Susan and I took in the Sunday matinee and were impressed with her dark hair, raspy voice and ability to project the budding confidence of a 17 year-old on the precipice of escape.  Scarlett shines because her co-stars are truly remarkable including Jessica Hecht and the always captivating Liev Schreiber.  Yowsa, that man’s presence can fill a vast stage.

Incidentally, Chef and I have always had a thing for Liev since we ran into him years ago in the Bath & Bodyworks near NYU.  He had his Jack Russell terrier in tow, and Chef and I scrambled to the floor to play with the pup, stealing glimpses up at the towering actor while he picked out some bath scrub.  I don’t remember he paid us much attention, but we didn’t care, we just wanted to be part of his pack for a few moments.

So congrats, Scarlett.  I’m sure the honor of being removed from The Spit List supersedes any other awards and tributes (do I see a Tony nom in her future?).  Take heart, Dakota Fanning—there’s hope for you yet.

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Spit List

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s celebrity hatred game becomes a Thanksgiving tradition.

Since I moved to the Big Apple, Thanksgiving has become my all-time favorite holiday.  Instead of traveling to spend stress-induced time with family, I gather friends in my home for a big meal.  After we pile our plates with food and pour copious amounts of wine, we go around the table and announce the person we would most like to spit on.  That’s right, we don’t waste time being sappy and thankful.  Instead, we use it as an opportunity to vent frustration with famous faces.  The Spit List as we call it has a long and storied history, having been created by Susan and me in our days at Condé Nast.  CLICK HERE to read a full excerpt about the origins, including a peek inside the famed Condé Nast cafeteria, and a dig at Chloe Sevigny.

For those of you rushing to adopt the game as a conversation starter at your own feast and too busy to read the excerpt, let me give a quick overview of the ground rules:

  • Spitting on someone is a real commitment based upon a visceral reaction; it comes from the gut.  There really is no rhyme or reason—so there’s no arguing allowed once someone announces their “spitee.”  They are allowed to give some background, but not required to defend their choice per se.
  • You can only spit on famous people—someone that you might see on a red carpet.  It can’t be Bob in accounting.
  • Your Spit List doesn’t have to be long, and people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has moved off.

Friends who have enjoyed The Spit List game at my table report that it has become like a drug for them—they spend all year looking forward to creating their list.  If they miss Thanksgiving at my house, they phone or email in their entry.  Some have tried exporting it to their family gatherings with limited success.  My friend Aimee spent some time in Liberia but was frustrated in her attempts to explain the game to citizens of a post-war torn republic.

Over the years, we have had quite a diverse group of honorees—Jennifer Aniston has moved on and off various people’s lists; not surprisingly both Suze Orman and Oprah have appeared more than once.  I imagine at least Oprah will be back this year.

Last year, Angela tried expanding it beyond just celebrities to broader concepts like the “blogosphere.”  The judges are still out on whether pop culture concepts will be a permanent category addition to The Spit List.

This year I’m extra lucky—two of my perennial Spit List favorites have collided: the Vampires of Twilight and Dakota Fanning.  I’m already getting choked up.

Have a heartwarming holiday, and do report back on your own Spit List.

Excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 11: Bold Faced Names

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