Mickey Rourke For a Day
Bravely going where few have dared to go, our correspondent underwent a complete transformation in order to find out what it's really like to be Mickey Rourke for a day.
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 lot 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.
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