Tag Archives: spit list

Green Globe Trekker: Mexico’s Hope

Today on Green Globe Trekker: JP worries about Mexico’s recovery from narco-trafficking violence.

Last year in the Yucatan Peninsula

Last week, I had the rare opportunity to dig a little deeper into someone’s Spit List—the controversial Thanksgiving game of nominating someone you so detest you’d spit at them on a red carpet.  This year, Chef stopped dinner conversation cold with his choice: Recreational Drug Users.  As he explained, their choice is tearing apart his home country of Mexico.  Little did I know at the time that an assignment from Condé Nast Traveler would take me South of the Border to check out the affects of narco-trafficking violence on tourism—for contract reasons, you’ll have to read the full story in the March issue of the magazine.  But here’s what I can say: there’s a spirit of optimism afoot that things will improve in Mexico—but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

The last time I wrote about Mexico for Condé Nast Traveler was November 2004, and I commented on an excitement about the country shrugging off decades of authoritarian rule and looking forward to enjoying true democracy.  In the intervening years, Mexico has become the notorious site of drug cartel warfare.  Experts like University of Miami’s Bruce Bagley told me that was a direct result of the “success” of the American-backed war on drugs in Colombia that has just shifted the drug trafficking up through Mexico.  He believes that Mexico’s 71 years of one-party rule has left a young democracy’s institutions vulnerable—the courts, the police, and the military are cracking from corruption due to the incredible amounts of profits made from drug trafficking.

Where’s that optimism I mentioned?  Many people I spoke with told me a version of, “It’s safe here for tourists.  Drug traffickers don’t want to hurt North Americans.  They are the source of their profits, after all.  They’re the ones who buy their drugs.”  Yikes.  A forceful crack down on trafficking won’t ever stop the problem—there’s just too much money to be made.  Instead, we need to focus our resources on targeting the cause—Chef’s “spitees.”

The other hopeful note Mexicans sounded was that elections are coming in two years.  The likelihood is that the country will shift back to the PRI party—the same one in charge for 71 years—who will make a quiet deal with the drug cartels, and the violence will go away.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like progress to me, but to many in Mexico it seems like the safer choice.

Bottom line, America’s “war on drugs” is a costly, failing effort that is ripping apart a country so dear to my heart.  After all, Mexico has given me so many gifts—and not just the seven or so nativity scenes that are part of my Christmas decorations.  The country blessed me with Chef, and as I’ve said before, I love being the Tex to his Mex.

Let’s put an end to the spitting, and to the drug war.

Check out StopTheDrugWar.org for more.

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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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Spit List XI: Tea Party Pat Down

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul sounds an alarm regarding preparations for The Spit List.

Chloe Sevigny was the original Spit List nominee 11 years ago

Confused by the kooky controversy surrounding TSA pat-downs?  Bored by the bogus buzz around Black Friday?  Then turn your attention to that imminently more critical consideration—the question that gets everyone gobbling at Thanksgiving gatherings: Who’s on your Spit List?

For those of you who don’t have time to read an excerpt from Alphabet City about The Spit List origin that includes Chloe Sevigny and the Condé Nast cafeteria, let me lay the ground rules:

  • Your Spit List nominees should be folks you so dislike that if you saw them, you would spit on them.  It is a guttural response based upon a visceral reaction, which means there’s really is no rhyme or reason.
  • 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; people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has since moved off.  Although the recent appearance of her lips on Saturday Night Live has me reconsidering.

Did someone just spit on John Boehner?

Friends have tried exporting The Spit List to overseas celebrations with varying degrees of success.  Last I heard, my friend Aimee was debating the delicacies of introducing The Spit List to Kabul based on her limited success with it in Liberia.  At last year’s Spit List 10th Anniversary Celebration, favorite choices included Lou Dobbs and Rihanna, the latter nominated because of a bad haircut that just seems to be getting worse.

WORD OF CAUTION: In a post-election daze, it’s easy to go wild with political appointees to your Spit List.  Believe me, I am all for a full on TSA pat down of the Tea Party baggers.

Gwyneth and a rain of spit?

But from experience, the game is far more fun when there’s a Spit List balance of party officials and pop-culture wackos.  So, for every John Boehner there should be a Gwyneth Paltrow—damn, her Glee appearance is throwing a curve ball at my Spit List.

Good luck, guttural speed, and may your Spit List be thoughtful and controversial.

And by all means, let me know whom made your Spit List.

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

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My Nemesis?

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul clashes with Chef over his depiction in book & blog.

Sweetly, my partner Chef insisted that he have the honor of purchasing the very first print edition of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life.  But as he stood in our kitchen, turning it over in his hands, his proud smile turned to worried concern.

“First in the book and now the blog, I think I’ve become your nemesis,” he said.

“Nemesis?  Are we super heroes?  You watch too much Smallville.”

“No, I mean like I’m always part of the joke.”

There’s that English-as-a-Second/Third-Language issue that charmed me so much in Episode 14: Happy Soul.

“Oh honey, you mean you’re my ‘foil.’  You’re like Ricky to my Lucy!”

And so it begins—a problem most memoirists face—the feedback from loved ones about their portrayal in the book.  For the most part, I’ve tried to head off at the pass any potential issues by letting some key co-stars read early drafts.  Angela quite likes her in-book comparison to Minnie Driver, although her sister Mandy tells me the actress is on her Spit List.  Susan has always admired Brooke Shields, so I knew that one would earn me points.

The biggest concern I had was with my mother’s reaction.  Those of you who know me, or have read the book, understand that we’ve had an up-and-down relationship most of my life.  I sent her relevant chapters before the book was published just to be fair and give her a sense of what was headed down the pike.  Her reaction was surprising—she said that while she enjoyed the characterization of my father (her ex-husband) more than hers, she thought the portrayal of her visit to NYC was spot-on.

I had been focusing so much on a potential rough patch with my Mother that I wasn’t really prepared for a new issue with my partner.  And since Chef and I are both caliente for the actor I compared him to, Gael Garcia Bernal, I wasn’t sure why this nemesis-foil issue was rearing its ugly head.

“I guess it’s just hitting me that my Dad is going to read the book.  You know him, he’ll read and study every word of it,” Chef explained.

“And so?”

“That means he’s going to read the Happy Soul chapter.”

“Honey, this isn’t a surprise.  We’ve talked about it for over a year.  You said it was fine.  It’s even excerpted on the blog.”

“The blog is one thing.  He doesn’t read that.  This is different.  The book makes it so real.”

“What’s the issue?  The chapter is so sweet.  It’s one of my favorites.”

“You know…the part that goes after Happy Soul.”

“You’re kidding?  I think any Dad would be proud of that in a son!” I laughed.  Chef blushed furiously.

“Tell me you’re not going to write about this.”

“Of course I am.  You’re my foil, after all.”

Not sure what goes after Happy Soul?  Guess you’ll have to read the book and find out.  And I guess I’ll find out soon if my foil has turned into a nemesis.

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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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Turkey Trouble

Today on Alphabet City: A tragic “honor” killing in Turkey reminds Jon Paul of his trouble in Istanbul with a gay hustler while on tour with Tyra.

Last week as I was beginning to cook the big Thanksgiving meal and make final preparations for my Spit List, I came across an article in the New York Times about a man named Ahmet Yildiz who was brutally killed in Istanbul by his father for being gay.  The reporter and sociologists refer to it as an “honor” killing—which I find horrific and gruesome.  The premise of the article is that modern Turkey is battling fundamentalist Islamic ideology as can be seen in acceptance of cross-dressing pop-stars but murders of gay men.

I must admit that I had lulled myself into believing that things must have progressed for gays and lesbians in the metropolis of Istanbul since I visited many years ago with Tyra Banks.  I thought it was daring then that I ventured out to find exotic gay nightlife, and would up in a heap of trouble.  But nothing as tragic as Mr. Yildiz.  As an American, I was able to return to a land where I might not be able to marry my partner, but I at least feel free from being hunted down by a family member justifying their action in the name of “honor.”

If it were still Thanksgiving, I’d add “Honor Killings” to my Spit List.  In the meantime, I offer up an excerpt of the story about an experience in Istanbul that caused me years of shame.

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Episode 7: Turkey Trouble.

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Spit List Recap

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s heart is warmed by Spit List nominees Lou Dobbs and Rihanna.

As I recover from a serious food coma, thought I’d reply for you some of the highlights from Thanksgiving Spit List 2009.  (For those new to Spit List, CLICK HERE for a background post).  Some trends: in years past people reported having no problem coming up with famous faces to spit on—the challenge was always narrowing them down.  But this year, guests at the table reported having to think long and hard about their nominees—it just didn’t seem so obvious.  I theorized this was known as Obama Effect—having a reasonable leader of the free world makes us less edgy and aggressive.  At the same time the Obama Effect draws out reactionary, religious right nut cases who just don’t seem worthy of our spit.  Thus, our field is narrower.

As the host, I celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Spit List by re-nominating my very first spitee Dakota Fanning, mostly because she is appearing in Twilight—and last year I spit on any type of vampire hyped films.  CNN took center stage with double nominations for Wolf Blitzer and ex-host/anti-immigrant Lou Dobbs.

In the category of 15-minute Famers, we decided that spitting on Levi Johnston would make his Playgirl photo spread hotter.  Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, John & Kate didn’t make an appearance on anyone’s list—people just said they were exhausted of hearing about this not-so-interesting couple.  And that’s the thing about the Spit List—it takes a lot of effort to spit on someone, so you better do it wisely.

A new category called “Spit On When They’re Down” appeared this year.  First up, John Travolta—Darrell is offended by the actor’s inauthentic life.  And then this one really drew gasps all around—Rihanna.  Why would Scott spit on a talented singer who was beaten by her boyfriend this year?  Because he doesn’t like her haircut.  Fair enough.  And that’s the true spirit of the Spit List—it makes no rhyme or reason, just a guttural response.

Sometimes, I get nervous when a new person joins our feast—I am well aware the Spit List is not an everyday family tradition.  So I always make sure that the newbie have a full grounding in the rules before they arrive.  This year, Angela and Jim’s friend Laura seemed slightly nervous as we rounded the table and got closer and closer to her.  As the game allows, participants can ask for a quick recap of the rules, which are simple—you don’t have to defend your spitting because it’s just visceral response; people can move on an off your spit list over time and for no reason; your spitee has to be famous, someone you might run into on the red carpet—it can’t be Bob in Accounting.

Laura considered the rules and leaned forward, “I’ve been thinking that actually spitting on someone would be like an actual assault, right?”

Nods and all around.

“So, I’d just like to say, if anyone ever got to spit on their nominee, and then got arrested.  I’d bail them out!”

Cheers went up all around!  We all raised our classes.

“Welcome Laura!”

I got a little emotional.  That’s the true spirit of the Spit List—gathering strangers at the Thanksgiving table and bonding over mutual disdain of famous personalities. To me, that’s something to be thankful for.

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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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