War Songs

Sometimes I write things that have nothing to do with porn or sex. A few years ago I wrote this article that ran in the March 2009 issue of Penthouse. It was supposed to be a short blurb, at most, but it grew into a two-page article that I think tells a pretty cool story about the everyday lives of our soldiers. It was such a great topic to immerse myself in for a few weeks, and it’s a piece I’m extremely proud to have in my clip book.

While researching and interviewing, I got to talk to a lot of really great people. Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America was a wonderful resource and such an enjoyable interview. It’s always nice to interview people who are not only brilliant, but who you want to talk to after the interview is over. Paul is definitely both, and I’m thrilled every time we get to chat. (I’ve also read his book, Chasing Ghosts, more than a few times. It’s an amazing story and so well written. Everyone should check it out.)

Another guy I interviewed for the story was David Ratcliff, a soldier I found on MySpace. I messaged him through the site and got a phone call the next day. He didn’t believe I really worked at Penthouse, and he couldn’t understand why I would want to get in touch with him. Once I sent him my credentials, though, he was a really fun guy to talk to. He was smart and had good taste in music (key for the piece, obviously), and he gave me more than a few good quotes.

All the soldiers were great, and I can’t say enough about them. There were some I didn’t get to use in the article, and some who I didn’t expect to use but who ended up surprising me. One of the surprises was Joe DeRidder, who happens to be my cousin. Joe’s a really smart guy, and I love hanging out with him and talking to him when he’s home. But he’s not the most verbose person. I didn’t think he’d give me much material to work with. He surprised me, though, and had a lot to say. (My dad, who swears he’s “never heard the kid say more than three words at a time” thought maybe there was another Joe DeRidder. He was impressed.) The article made for a fun show-and-tell at our next family get-together.

One of the coolest things, though, was interviewing the musicians who were involved. Bryan from the Bouncing Souls was awesome, and the band’s publicist/manager was really cool. We didn’t get to do the interview in person, because the band was on tour, but Bryan’s emails were great, and he cracked me up when we discussed doing the interview via BlackBerry.

Serj Tankian was another great interview. His manager called me within five minutes of my sending an email requesting an interview, and said she’d already spoken to him and he was very interested in talking to me. I was blown away, and we set up a phoner for later that day. I don’t think I’ve ever set up an interview so quickly, even with my friends! I didn’t get to use his quotes in the story (they just didn’t fit with the tone of the article), but we chatted for 45 minutes, and he was super cool. He told me a great Sarah Palin joke, and then made my day (probably my entire year) by telling me that the story I was writing mattered, and he thought that I was a smart, savvy journalist, which, in his book, made me the cool one. I saved the recording and listen to it every now and then when I want to feel like a rock star.

I’ve been fortunate in that I only have to write the stories I want to write, and I work with people who are as excited about the topics I cover as I am. It means my clip book is full of great stories that double as really great memories.

To read my article, “War Songs,” from the March 2009 issue of Penthouse, click here.

Get Your Cook On

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Every article I write is special to me, but interviewing Chris Santos (@santoscooks) was a real treat. I met Santos about a year and a half ago when Justine Joli (@justinejoli) invited me to dinner at his restaurant, Beauty & Essex. As usual, she gave me no warning and I showed up underdressed and disheveled. And of course it turned out that she was one of Santos’s guests that night, and we ended up dining with the chef and his friends. I’d known of Santos and was a fan of his incredible culinary concoctions already, but I was fortunate enough to become friends with him after that dinner.

About a year later, I was trying to come up with something new to write about when I ran into the chef at a friend’s party. A truly badass dude, Santos is a fixture of New York City’s nightlife scene, and every lady I know who’s met him—or even watched him on TV—is smitten. A lightbulb went off. He was the perfect guy to teach other men the importance of knowing their way around the kitchen. And I do love getting to hang out with my friends under the guise of interviewing them for work. (What? If you could do it, too, you would.)

If you’re in New York, you should check out his restaurants, Beauty & Essex and Stanton Social, and see for yourself why he was my go-to chef for this article. His menus are to die for, and after devouring most of the offerings at each establishment, I can assure you that there’s not a single disappointing dish. (Current favorites include the red snapper tacos, crab cake corndogs, and tequila gazpacho, washed down with a nice emerald gimlet.) If you’re lucky, you’ll bump into the chef while you’re there. Or me. Because even though all my article “research” (read: dining and drinking) is done, I can’t stay away from his incredible restaurants.

To read my interview with Santos, which appeared in the September 2012 issue of Penthouse, click here.

Rebel Yell

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I’m just a wee bit partial to redheads, so when I was told I’d be interviewing Ariel Rebel (@arielrebel), I was stoked. This sexy Canadian model is the perfect redhead, with a fiery personality to match her hair’s stunning hue, and we got on famously. My favorite thing about Ariel was how down-to-earth she was and how easy it was to carry on a normal conversation. I’ve done some pretty long interviews (it’s better to have too much material than not enough, after all), but over the course of two afternoons, Ariel and I chatted for about three hours. That was definitely a record.

Another thing I love about Ariel is her chutzpah. She submitted her photos to Penthouse on a whim and persuaded us to give her a chance. It’s not easy to land a spread in our pages, and for a model to get editorial space instead of the standard pictorial is pretty rare, but she managed to wow us. She did it before we got to hear her adorable French-Canadian accent, too, so you know she’s good.

To read my interview with Ariel, which appeared in the April 2012 issue of Penthouse, click here.

Body of Work

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Last year I interviewed an awesome artist named Patrick Leis. His works are some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen, but his medium is a little unconventional. Instead of painting on a canvas, Leis uses the human body to display his art. He’s won some pretty prestigious body-paint competitions, and models the world over are clamoring to work with him.

One of my favorite things about writing this article was researching Leis. In addition to being a painter, he’s also a writer, and he’s written more than a few books—-just not in English. If you Google him, you’ll see just how impressive his, ahem, body of work really is. But first you should read this article. Because I said please. (Please.)

To read my interview with Leis, which appeared in the October 2011 issue of Penthouse, click here.