Mickey Rourke For a Day
Who would want to be Mickey Rourke? Even Mickey Rourke would probably rather be someone else. But Movieline contributor Joe Queenan decided to walk a mile in Rourke’s boots for a day. From the moment he got up until he went to bed, Queenan smoke, ate, drank, dressed and spoke like cinema’s scuzziest movie star. He kept a detailed journal of his experience which was published in the December 1992 issue of Movieline.
Several months ago, I began to suffer from extreme stomach pains. The pains were of mysterious origin, but were so persistent and so excruciating that I soon became convinced that I was dying of cancer. Like most people who unexpectedly find themselves in such a situation, I immediately began to regret all the dreams I would never get to fulfill in my life, were I to die before my time. I would never live to see the Parthenon. I would never get to see the Eagles win the Super Bowl. I would never get to cuddle my grandchildren. I would never get to sweep through the Scottish heather like Paul McCartney does in “Mull of Kintyre.” But my greatest regret of all was that I would never get to spend a day being Mickey Rourke.
Like most American males, my single most cherished fantasy has long been to spend an entire day in the shoes, in the skin, nay, in the psyche of Mickey Rourke. With his uncompromising artistic vision, Rourke embodies a particularly heroic strain of American manhood that is constantly threatened with extermination by venal corporate philistines. More than Brando, more than Elvis, more even than Jim Morrison, Mickey Rourke is the incarnation of a recalcitrant American rebelliousness that refuses to kowtow to the demands of Wall Street, Madison Avenue or even La Cienega Boulevard. “Live free or die!” is the motto Mickey Rourke has always lived by, a motto that I–and most American males–have only lived by in our dreams.
What is most appealing about Mickey Rourke qua man is that he has obliterated the distinction between his own personality and those of the characters he plays on the screen, engendering a sort of cosmic Mickey Rourkeianism that straddles the real and the celluloid worlds. That’s why my premature burial would have chagrined me so, because I would not only have missed out on being the Mickey Rourke who kicks people’s asses in the movies, but the Mickey Rourke who kicks people’s asses in real life; not only the Mickey Rourke who looks like a complete scuzzball in the movies, but the Mickey Rourke who looks like a complete scuzzball in real life.
In May, one of New York’s finest gastroenterologists informed me that I was not suffering from stomach cancer and was not going to die, but was merely suffering from stress, a rotten diet and nervous exhaustion. He recommended that I eat more salad and start enjoying myself more. I took him up on it. I immediately booked a summer trip to Scotland, and by mid-July was joyously sweeping through the northern heather just a stone’s throw from Loch Ness. I set up a writing assignment that would require a spring 1993 trip to Athens. I started talking to my eight-year-old daughter about the joys of teenage pregnancy. Last, but not least, I started gearing up to be Mickey Rourke for a day.
My preparations fell into three categories. First, I would have to look like Mickey Rourke. Physically, this was no problem at all. Mickey Rourke and I are both fabulously handsome Irish-Americans, so appearance-wise I was a natural for the part. But my line of work–journalism–generally requires more than a passing acquaintance with normal human hygiene. Not so Mickey’s. So the first thing I had to do was to grunge up for a week, religiously abstaining from bathing or washing my hair for seven days. In addition, I jogged and played basketball every day for a week to augment the pungency of l’arome de Rourke. I did not shave for 14 days, cultivating a rich, grainy stubble, and I let my hair grow out for five months preceding my adventure. By the time the big day arrived, I looked like a complete thug.
Sartorially, I prepared for being Mickey Rourke by buying a jet-black sports coat, jet-black jeans, jet-black shoes, jet-black socks, a jet-black shirt, a jet-black belt and jet-black sunglasses. This would take care of the Mickey Rourke of Diner, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Angel Heart, Year of the Dragon, Desperate Hours and 9 1/2 Weeks. For the Mickey Rourke of Barfly I would have to switch to a grubby, gray sweatshirt with a beer mug on the front; for the Mickey Rourke of A Prayer for the Dying I would don filthy blue jeans, a faded green fatigue jacket and a pair of brown com bat boots. The Mickey Rourke of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man would require a Confederate flag bandana, an earring and a tattoo; the Mickey Rourke of Homeboy would involve stripping down to boxer’s trunks.
Psychologically, I prepared for being Mickey Rourke by watching all of his movies and memorizing particularly memorable snippets of dialogue. It was important for me to spend my day as Mickey Rourke by not only speaking in clipped, guttural tones the way Rourke does both in his films and in real life, but by reproducing verbatim some of his most memorable remarks. At all times, I reminded myself that I must never let more than 15 words pass through my lips without using Mickey Rourke’s favorite term–read any of his interviews?–“mother fuckers.”
The ground rules for the project were simple: I would spend an entire day, from the moment I rose until midnight, doing things Mickey Rourke had actually done in his films and in real life, and saying things Mickey Rourke had actually said in his films and in real life. I would dress like he dressed, speak like he spoke, eat like he ate, smoke like he smoked, and fuck with people like those he fucked with. Only then could I meet my maker in peace.
5:00. Rise, smoke first Marlboro.
5:01. Smash bathroom mirror with fist (Pope), curse unidentified motherfuckers who want me to compromise my principles and suck their cocks.
5:04. Smoke second Marlboro.
5:05. Take a massive wad of bills out of my shoes (Pope).
5:06. My children wake, come in to hug me. “I really like this family,” I snarl, shoving them away, “but you’re pushing my patience” (Desperate Hours).
5:08. Smoke third Marlboro.
5:15. Hit local diner, sprinkle raw sugar all over my tongue, then wash it down with glass of Coke (Diner).
5:21. Kick over two trash cans (Pope).
5:26. Smoke fourth Marlboro, grind out butt with heel of my boot.
5:27. Work out on speed bag at gym (Home-boy).
5:45. Kick over two more trash cans (Pope).
5:49. Order French fries with gravy (Diner).
5:52. Smoke fifth Marlboro.
5:54. Call passing motorist “motherfucker.”
5:56. Get in line for train to New York. Man tries to sneak ahead of me. “Fuck you, mother fucker,” I snarl, as Rourke has in several of his interviews. “You fuck with me, we’re gonna fucking get down. You’re not gonna cut off my balls the way they cut off Michael Cimino’s.” Ancient, short retiree skulks off.
5:58-6:25. Sneer and snarl a tot on train to Manhattan.
6:25. Get off train at 125th Street and run madly through streets of Harlem (Angel Heart).
6:28. Madly dash back to safety of train platform, away from mean streets of Harlem.
7:12. Arrive at Grand Central Station. Eighth Marlboro.
7:23. On the lookout for the kind of prostitute that Mickey Rourke hires to touch Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks, I visit sex shop on 42nd Street. No prostitutes, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to watch Latex Submission. Grind out 10th Marlboro with heel of my boot.
8:02. Decide to visit another porn palace on Eighth Avenue in hope of finding a prostitute. No luck, so I pass the time watching Ready, Willing and Anal.
8:13. Pop into cheap dive on Eighth Avenue. Order four scotches (Barfly). (I don’t drink, but I feel that in order to be just like Mickey Rourke it’s important to at least order the same drinks that he orders in his movies.) “Hey, if these motherf*ckers pay me enough money, I’ll talk to anybody they want me to,” I tell the bartender, who doesn’t seem entirely sure what I plan to do with four scotches. “Every once in a while you’ve gotta roll the potato.” (I’m not sure what Mickey Rourke meant by this when he said it in his interview with Smart magazine, and I can tell by the look on the bartender’s face that he has no idea what it means to roll the potato. But when a grunged-up fuck all dressed up in black comes into your shit-hole dive at eight o’clock in the morning and says that he wants to roll the potato, hey, you let him roll the motherfucking potato.)
8:19. Grind 15th Marlboro into sidewalk with heel of my boot.
8:27. Visit scuzzy diner on Ninth Avenue. Order French fries with gravy. Wash it down with mouthful of raw sugar and Coke chaser.
8:38. Guy hassles me on Ninth Avenue. “Let’s rock’n’roll, motherfucker!” I exclaim (Harley Davidson). Seventy-year-old Chinese-American handing out fliers for local drugstore cowers in corner and meekly skulks away.
8:55. Spy a passed-out drunk lying on street outside bus depot. Put my foot across his neck, just like Mickey Rourke does in A Prayer for the Dying. The drunk doesn’t budge, so I figure I’ll get a twofer by lighting a match off his shoes just like Mickey does in Angel Heart. The drunk still doesn’t budge, but unfortunately I only have book matches, which are hard to light off shoe leather. What I need are stick matches like the ones Mickey uses in the movie. I scour the neighborhood looking for stick matches, but come up empty. I eventually decide to go back and light the match an inch away from the drunk’s feet. I then smoke my 20th Marlboro and grind it into the sidewalk with the heel of my boot.
9:23. Check into an Eighth Avenue diner and ask the waiter, as Mickey Rourke did when interviewed by Michael Musto in the Village Voice, “Is there any pussy on the menu? I heard the special is warm pussy salad.”
“Whaaa?” says the waiter.
“I’ll just have some French fries and gravy,” I tell him. “Every once in a while you’ve gotta roll the potato.”
9:35. Time to intimidate the press. Call Martin Beiser, Managing Editor of GQ, to threaten to rearrange his fucking face if he ever fucks with me again. But he hasn’t come to work yet so I leave a message saying I’ll call back later.
9:45. Read a few passages from Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire in the lobby of a seedy Times Square hotel, just as Mickey Rourke used to do when he first came to New York.
10:02. Stand in pulpit of St. Malachy’s: The Actors’ Chapel on West 49th Street, right off Broadway, and slip into role of Martin Fallon, the IRA terrorist Mickey played in A Prayer for the Dying. “Fodder … we are fundamentally aloon,” I tell no one in particular, though secretly I am speaking directly to God. “Nothing lasts,” I continue.
“There’s no purpose to any of it.” A female penitent enters the church and kneels down a few feet in front of me. I descend from the pulpit. “There’s nothing worth killing or dying for,” I whisper to her, as I sweep past. “And the real truth is … there’s nothing worth living for.” A certified non-babe, she looks like she’s used to this kind of stuff.
10:35. Still on the lookout for the right kind of prostitute, I visit a porn palace on 42nd Street and ask to see a live girl in the fantasy booth. The palooka at the counter tells me the live girls don’t come on until 11:00. For the first time, I feel really stupid and out of character. Mickey would have known what time the live girls come on.
10:40. Smoke 26th Marlboro.
10:42. Black pimp remarks, “That’s a nice out fit you got on. John Wayne style–all black.” A movie buff.
10:50. Order a beer and a chaser in sleazy Eighth Avenue bar. “Even the most primitive societies have an innate respect for the insane,” I quote from Mickey’s Motorcycle Boy in Rumble Fish to the disinterested drunk sitting next to me.
11:00. Visit porn palace where for $20, a blonde bombshell admits–as Mickey Rourke makes Kim Basinger confess in 9 1/2 Weeks–that she’s been “a Nosy Parker” and deserves a good spanking. She turns, lifts her skirt, and bends over, but the glass partition in the booth comes down suddenly, and I don’t feel like giving her another $20 tip, so I leave.
11:15. Kick a car and briefly obstruct traffic just like Mickey Rourke does in Homeboy.
11:17. Call Andy Aaron, a freelance journalist, to threaten to kick his fucking head in if he ever fucks with me again. But he’s not home.
11:21. Smoke 31st Marlboro. Throat getting kind of hoarse.
11:34. Take subway down to mean streets of Chinatown, where I run madly through the streets like Mickey Rourke does in Year of the Dragon.
11:37. Stop for lunch at Double Hey Rice Shop, but notice chickens hanging from windows and leave in a hurry. “I’ve got a thing about chickens,” I tell the waiter, quoting from Angel Heart.
11:51. Report to U.S. Court House to see if there are any wise guys in the vicinity that I can hang out with or kiss on the cheeks like Mickey Rourke did during John Gotti’s trial. But clerk says it’s lunchtime.
11:59. Smoke 33rd Marlboro.
12:03. Visit OTB and hang out with Little Italy and Chinatown lowlifes.
12:17. Walk through streets of Little Italy arm in arm with a reasonably handsome male friend so we look like a pair of raging queens just like Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts do in The Pope of Greenwich Village.
12:19. My friend buys a sausage sandwich from a vendor, just like the safecracker does in Pope. “Hey, that stuff’ll fucking kill you,” I exclaim, yanking it from his lips and tossing it into the trash just like Mickey Rourke (Pope).
12:32. Spit on black guy’s shoes just like Mickey Rourke does in Homeboy. Eighty-five-year-old derelict does not emerge from coma.
12:35. Sit on chopper outside Bowery eatery.
12:59. Visit “Fetish Fantasy Video” on Lower East Side in hope of finding a prostitute to recreate that 9 ½ Weeks scene. None here–perhaps prostitutes don’t frequent these places–but since I’m here, what the hell: I watch a movie about English school girls who deserve, and receive, proper canings.
1:12. Wander past Hell’s Angels clubhouse and smoke 40th Marlboro. Briefly toy with idea of going inside and striking up conversation with spiritual kinsmen, but then recall that I am not really a badass mother fucker like Mickey Rourke but a pussy magazine writer masquerading as a badass motherfucker. Decide to leave the Angels to their own devices and go fuck around with some women instead. Hey, every once in a while you’ve gotta roll the potato.
1:38. Visit apartment of female friend, and tear white blouse off her just like Mickey Rourke does to Kelly Lynch in Desperate Hours, then spray Perrier between her legs just like Mickey Rourke does to Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks. Next, I force her to kneel in front of me with her eyes shut as she sips a mouthful of Vicks Formula 44D cough syrup, just like Kim Basinger. I guzzle down the Perrier and finish my 43rd Marlboro, then kiss her passionately, forcing my tongue between her teeth.
“Kim Basinger once said that kissing Mickey Rourke was like kissing an ashtray,” I tell my friend. “Is kissing me like kissing an ashtray?”
“No,” she replies. “It’s like kissing someone who’s been smoking a lot of cigarettes.” She pauses. “But then again, my mouth tastes like cough syrup.”
2:25. Visit bombed-out bar on Lower East Side and nuzzle up to pathetic, female gin rummy. “They wanna own your ass, they wanna squeeze your balls, they wanna control you,” I tell her, quoting from real-life Mickey Rourke interview. “I’ll go fifty-fifty, but I won’t kiss nobody’s ass.” She asks me to buy her a drink.
2:48. Intimidate the press by stopping off at Spy magazine and threatening to kick Editor Kurt Andersen’s motherfucking face in if he ever fucks with me again. He giggles, apparently used to visits from people dressed like Mickey Rourke threatening to kick in his motherfucking face.
3:05. Set free a bag of goldfish in the Hudson River, just like Mickey Rourke intended to do in Rumble Fish.
3:12. Buy a cheap, temporary tattoo depicting a skull surrounded by a snake.
3:16. Put out 50th Marlboro with heel of my shoe.
3:23. Stop off at cheap dive on Second Avenue and tell bar tender, “A man is not a gentleman unless he knows how to mix a proper martini” (Desperate Hours).
3:27. Using Mickey Rourke’s Snagglepuss accent from Barfly, I tell the lowlife sitting next to me: “Some people never go crazy; what truly horrible lives they must lead.”
3:48. Pick fight with drunk at corner of 12th Street and Avenue A. “You know, if I had a nickel for every time some piece of shit pointed a gun at me,” I remark, quoting Mickey as Harley Davidson, “I’d be a rich man.” The bum is not actually pointing a gun at me, but I jab him in the shoulder anyhow. “Catch you on the rebound, asshole.”
4:08. Visit a cemetery just like Mickey does in Johnny Handsome.
4:23. Stop by a female friend’s house and ask if she will wear a black-cat mask and panties and fuck a complete stranger while I watch just like Mickey Rourke does with Carre Otis in Wild Orchid. She politely declines.
4:38. Stub out 53rd Marlboro with the heel of my boot.
5:12. Stop by a Lower East Side church and say the brief prayer that Mickey Rourke recites in Harley Davidson: “Oh God, if you do exist, and you’re up there watching from wherever it is you’re watching from … stay away from me.”
5:23. Stagger into cheap dive on fringes of Little Italy and tell drunken scum sitting right next to me, “Your mother’s cunt stinks like carpet cleaner” (Barfly). He doesn’t confirm or deny it.
5:37. Briefly roll around in back alley outside bar (Barfly).
5:39. Remark to passerby: “Anybody can be a non-drunk; it takes a special talent to be a drunk” (Barfly).
5:59. Shoot some pool (Rumble Fish).
6:11. Stub out 59th Marlboro with heel of my boot.
6:17. Sprinkle tongue with raw sugar, followed by Coke chaser.
6:25. Emulating Mickey, who regularly has intermediaries do the talking for him in public, I ask a friend to go into a Pakistani deli and tell the clerk, “Mr. Queenan would like you to sell him a pack of Marlboros.”
6:59. Visit Times Square dive and watch cruddy porn flick. Attempt to ream my cock through bottom of popcorn container the way Mickey Rourke does in Diner, but have no luck. Realize that ’90s-era container has solid bottom, rather than folds that were popular in Diner era. Also realize that hot butter could scald my tumescent manhood anyway. Stub out 62nd Marlboro with heel of my boot.
7:12. Visit friend and complain about Spike Lee’s movies causing Los Angeles riots. “I’d like to investigate his asshole with a baseball bat,” I say, citing real-life Mickey Rourke interview on another subject.
7:28. Invite female friend to hit me in the face like Daryl Han nah does to Mickey Rourke in The Pope of Greenwich Village. She does. The fucking bitch.
7:43. Steal a Hershey bar from Times Square bodega the way Mickey used to when he was a down-at-the-heels actor struggling to make ends meet back in the ’70s.
7:58. Grab a guy by the ear (A Prayer for the Dying).
8:15. Stub out 67th Marlboro with heel of my boot.
8:38. Drop by the home of a female friend in order to blindfold her, then ask if she would mind having ice cubes dripped all over her lips and chin (9 1/2 Weeks). She says this is no problem, but when she goes to the kitchen there is no ice in the refrigerator. I send her out to get some ice from a deli.
8:45. While she’s out, I smash the refrigerator (Pope), shadow-box for 10 minutes (Homeboy), and call up her mother to ask what her daughter’s favorite food is, just like Mickey Rourke does for Carre Otis in Wild Orchid. The woman’s mother says she will need a day to think about it.
9:02. Friend returns with ice cubes that I refuse to pay for. I blindfold her, then drip ice all over her lips and chin. After I finish, she asks if I’m going to do anything with a riding crop (9 1/2 Weeks). I say I don’t have one. As luck would have it, she does. I try it out. Smooth. “Dominatrices suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive use of the same muscles,” my friend explains, mysteriously. “Look,” I tell her, “you stay here and be Madonna, I’ve got to get back out on the streets and be Mickey Rourke.”
9:27. Slosh down mouthful of sugar with Coke chaser, then stub out 73rd Marlboro with the heel of my boot.
9:58. Check into Sixth Avenue dive for a couple of Cokes and a mouthful of sugar. Strike up conversation with wino to my left. “I lost something a long time ago,” I explain, quoting from Mickey Rourke’s IRA terrorist in A Prayer for the Dying. “Everything … everything got very black like dried blood, and something started to stink. And every day it got worse, sometimes so bad I couldn’t get out of my bed. I sat there in the darkness like a wee, scared boy not being able to breathe or speak my name. I saw myself lying in the street dying, not wanting to die.” Then the big windup: “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.” The wino keeps watching the Mets game.
10:23. Dog-tired of being Mickey Rourke, I chat up a Puerto Rican prostitute on Eighth Avenue and ask if she’ll fondle a blonde girl’s breasts just like the hooker does to Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks. She says she’ll do it to her friend for $80, but I have to tip the blonde friend, too. I don’t have $80, and besides, Mickey Rourke doesn’t have to tip nobody.
11:15. Catch the train home, referring to numerous bag people, conductors and passengers as motherfuckers.
11:23. Shadowbox for 10 minutes in train bathroom, then light up 81st Marlboro in area clearly marked “No Smoking.”
12:00. Arrive home exactly at midnight, stub out 82nd Marlboro with heel of my boot, pull off my jetblack sunglasses, and officially stop being Mickey Rourke.
Was being Mickey Rourke for a day the emotionally transcendent experience I had long expected it to be, the unforgettable event that would enable me to go to my grave in peace? Yes.
Getting to step on a bum’s back, to wear sunglasses in a pulpit, to force a woman to kneel in front of me while I force-fed her Vicks Formula 44D cough syrup, and to threaten the press with serious physical harm are about as uplifting experiences as I have ever had, and I also enjoyed watching Ready, Willing and Anal. Oh, sure, there were disappointments–I never got to see a man strangle a man on his own penis the way Mickey Rourke does in Angel Heart, and I never got to see my girlfriend accidentally shoot herself with a pistol the way Mickey Rourke did with Carre Otis, and I never got to jam a sharpened steak knife between a person’s fingers the way Mickey Rourke does in Desperate Hours–but on the whole I felt that I had accomplished what I had set out to accomplish. Within the parameters of Mickey Rourketude that I had delineated, I was satisfied that I had truly been Mickey Rourke for a day.
Did I learn anything from my day-long masquerade as one of the legends of the silver screen? Yes: being Mickey Rourke is a lot more physically demanding than I could possibly have imagined beforehand. Smoking 82 cigarettes when you’ve never smoked more than 25 in a single day in your entire life really leaves your nerves frazzled. Same deal with the five mouthfuls of sugar followed by Coke chasers. Moreover, your ankles get tired from stubbing out 82 cigarettes, and your jaws get tired from repetitive use of the muscles needed to form the word “motherfucker.” But all in all, I came away from my Day of the Rourke feeling as emotionally sated as I have ever been in my life.
Still, by the time midnight arrived, I knew that it was time for me to start coming down, to enter an emotional decompression chamber, to start making the break from being Mickey Rourke. Otherwise, I’d be tying my wife to the chandelier with a rattlesnake whip and cold-cocking my little kids when they got up in the morning to go to school. I realized that it was vitally important for me to establish a clean break with the Mickey Rourke persona than I had inhabited for the past 19 hours. So I tearfully pulled off my Confederate flag headband. I yanked out my earring. I dragged off my black Guns N’ Roses T-shirt. I took off my black boots. I stripped off my black jeans.
And then I took the first of four very long baths.
Joe Queenan is feeling better now.