Nieratko Vs. Cheazy-E, Round II
In the late 90s, while writing for the skateboarding magazine Big Brother, I thoroughly enjoyed fucking with my interview subjects. One of those subjects, a rapper named Cheazy-E, claimed my interview made him look like a "gott-damn retard."
Cheazy-E in a Porta Potty
Like most people, I have changed a great deal over the last 15 years. I've dropped a good 50 pounds, quit drugs, gotten married, had two kids, adopted a rosier disposition on life... in short, I am a far cry from the raving lunatic I once was.
That last bit is most noticeable in my professional life. In the late 90s I thoroughly enjoyed fucking with my interview subjects, but when the bottom fell out at my employer, Larry Flynt's Big Brother skateboarding magazine, I found out that the rest of skateboarding had turned vanilla and no one wanted their 'athletes' made fun of in print. If I wanted to continue working in skateboarding, I realized, I would have to tame my interview style. But despite mellowing out in my old age and trying to exemplify kinder, gentler, fatherly qualities I very much miss busting balls.
One of the people I interviewed during my raving lunatic years recently sent VICE's general email account the following message:
"One time Chris Nieratko interviewed me for a cover story in Big Brother Magazine and made me come off as a gott-damn retard. At the time I was a rapper named Cheazy-E, so I guess I should have expected it. The notoriety spawned from that interview and other press led to me being discovered by director John Waters and ultimately cast in a lead role in Cecil B Demented. I did acting for 4 years, made a quarter mil, and then quit to work at a boiler room sales floor in Van Nizzle (Van Nuys). I recently released a novel titled Phonehead loosely based on the experience. I have all sorts of rad photos on film sets and also working in the cubicle hellhole of doom. Get at me about an interview or something, otherwise it will probably all just end up on my Uncle Jebidiah's farm blog."
I had long forgotten my torturous talk with Cheazy-E back in 1999 (I published the interview under the pseudonym Ross Diamond to avoid a non-compete clause in a contract), but when he reached out I thought it would be a good idea to dust off the old jokes and catch up with the skater turned rapper turned actor turned author, find out how his life has been going, and to let him know nobody uses the word 'retard' anymore.
Pat Duffy and Eric
VICE: It's been about 15 years since I interviewed you for Big Brother. Have you gotten any better at rapping?
Cheazy-E, aka Eric Barry: Nope. Ain't a damn thing changed. Actually, I don't mess around with it too much anymore. I kind of killed the rap thing because it got exhausting trying to promote multiple personalities. Sometimes I still record for fun, but I'm smarter about it. I used to waste so much money paying a studio engineer 50 bucks an hour to record and mix. Now I just use a mic and laptop, which is what I should have done all along. It's not like I used any instruments or was known for my production quality.
At the time, you told me you were happy with the interview in Big Brother. Why do you think I made you look bad now when you were stoked on it 15 years ago?
Some of the questions in the old interview didn't leave much wiggle room for me to shine, but as far as you making me look bad, I wouldn't really say that.
Who uses the word 'retard' anymore?
People who want a synonym for 'idiot.'
Do you still use the terms 'bitch' and 'ho'?
Were you worried that if I interviewed you a second time I'd really try to make you look like "a gott-damn retard"?
I figured since you were married and had a family you would soften up and ask me about the beauty of life, but it's not really going in that direction.
Clip from Big Brother's Boob
As a result of our last interview you were cast in a John Waters movie and you never thanked me. What was that like?
Right. I know. It's like Johnny Knoxville and I had the same career trajectory. Get in Big Brother. Get in Big Brother's Boobvideo. Then star in a John Waters film. After that our careers differed greatly. He's Bad Grandpa and I'm Bad Writer.
Did you blow John to get in the movie?
No. No. No. John had great confidence in my acting abilities from the start. Other people on set—not so much. I overheard assistant directors saying stuff like, "We better hurry up and shoot Eric's scene before he has a nervous breakdown."
Why do you tell people you had a lead role in Cecil B. Demented when IMDB lists you 13th on the cast list?
Well, you see, the order of the cast is never reflective of how big a part someone had. It is, however, reflective of how well your agent negotiated your billing. As far as screen time, I had the third or fourth biggest role in the film. In the casting world, members of the main ensemble cast are usually referred to as the leads, but as far as Academy Awards and the Razzies go, yes, it would be considered a supporting role. When I see all sorts of people in LA referring to "extra work" as a supporting role, that definitely makes me want to call it a lead role—to separate the wheat from the chaff. Or is it chafe?
You are beneath Kevin Nealon on the IMDB list, which is cool.
Yeah, Kevin is rad. Originally his role of Forrest Gump in Cecil B. Demented was scripted for Michael J. Fox, but that didn't happen. Not sure why. Maybe his health, or a lack of interest. Then I think Luke Perry wanted it but had a scheduling conflict. They locked down Kevin Nealon the day before shooting his part. Right before he wrapped for the day he asked me to sign his script. I thought he wanted my autograph, but he explained that he always has the cast sign his scripts and then he donates them to a charity auction. I thought I was cool for a second.
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Adrian Grenier. Photo by Eric Barry.
Ever dated any celebrities?
I had a couple make-out scenes on TV with some actresses on the come-up. Nothing scandalous. Never dated anyone in the entertainment industry. No singers, dancers, or actresses. But then again I dated a lot of young women so most hadn't picked their career paths yet.
Did you get to pork Melanie Griffith's old face on the set of Cecil B. Demented?
Nope. Not a lot of action on that set. It was super cold and everyone was sick.
Would you pork her new scary plastic face, if given the opportunity?
I just googled "pork her" and an article about a woman with O-sized breasts came up. So I'm going to say no.
When I interviewed you in 1999 you were a 20-year-old virgin. Did you ever end up getting laid?
Haha. I was only 19 at the time. But yeah, I guess technically I was a virgin, but I had stuck every other body part in there—including my elbow. I was convinced if I had sex with a girl she would get pregnant and then I would get stuck in some dumb town or city forever. As I got older I learned to roll the dice. I'm sure some of it was unfounded OCD or anxiety, both of which sex cures, thankfully. Yes, I'm a grown-ass man and did have sex.
Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. and Eric
How did that go?
Well, I think you learn very quickly that just because a girl makes a few noises that doesn't mean she orgasmed.
Please, share with the audience your first sexual experience.
About a minute in I remember thinking: This is a sin? By the time I finished I was a full-blown agnostic.
Aside from that one major motion picture you've been somewhat of a failed actor the last 15 years with bit parts on bullshit TV shows. What happened?
I'm actually one of the few actors who never had a bit part. All of my characters had names. No "Paramedic #3" or "Confused Tourist." All juicy, fat roles. Not to be confused with fat rolls. All of it came with no prior experience or showbiz connections. You gotta think, though, sometimes it's fun to sabotage success to see if you can recreate it.
You recently wrote a book. Tell me about it, and are you as shitty a writer as you are a rapper?
It's a novel called Phonehead. It's about an actor named West Cooper who quits showbiz and takes a job at a call center of doom. A few people have told me it reminds them of a book called Post Office. I spent five years writing this thing, so it's as good a book as I'll ever write.
Like most stoned teenagers, I was a telemarketer for a short time. What was the worst part of the job for you?
It wasn't so bad. It made me feel kind of famous. People are always talking about telemarketers. It was interesting to get in there and mix it up with them. The first couple hours of the day are pretty brutal—when your head is still asleep and your throat is dry and the sales managers want you to talk with the energy of a coked-out maniac.
Phonehead is listed as #333,947 on the Amazon Best Sellers list, and one reviewer called you autistic and another called the book, "retardedly quirky," so it seems you've found your audience. What's next? Another book in hopes of making the top 250,000?
Is Walmart hiring? There are eight million books on Amazon. I'll take whatever piece of the pie I can get. But yes, I definitely have a few more books in the works. I recently attended my alma mater's alumni networking event in Beverly Hills. As the microphone went around the table, everyone announced what they did for work. When it got to me, I paused. All sorts of things ran through my mind. Finally I blurted out: "AUTHOR!"
Follow Eric on Twitter @ericbarry_