Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Book: Mouthpiece, by Edward Hayes (2006)

Hayes is an honest-to-God New York character, a high-powered lawyer who’s always in the scrum. Who owns closets full of hand-tailored suits and custom-made shoes. Who fraternizes with the great, the near-great, and Anna Wintour. He’s the kind of guy you’d expect to meet in a novel. And you probably have. Hayes was the inspiration for the well-connected but street-smart attorney Tommy “Whaddaya Whaddaya?” Killian in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe even dedicated the book to him. In Mouthpiece, Hayes tells his own story.

It’s lumpy, misshapen, and a blast to read. Hayes, who describes himself as “a neighborhood white boy” made good, is upfront about everything: his bouts with depression, his diverse sex life, the ethical dilemma posed by taking out your fees in trade with your gorgeous prostitute clients.

“At one time,” he writes, “I represented high-priced call girls, an after-hours club that featured live sex shows with dwarves, and a bunch of rich gay guys who trolled transsexual clubs for gay go-go dancers.” We could have used such patrons when I worked at a law firm.

Hayes’s unflappability is why the powerful call him when they’re in trouble. When Hayes was settling the Andy Warhol estate he had dealings with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, “who likes to leave naked women tied to hotel beds and apparently uses a lot of drugs. The naked women are one thing, I think, and the drugs are another. But the two together – that, I think, could be a problem.” With that attitude, I’d have him on speed-dial too.

Above all, Hayes is gloriously politically incorrect. He notes that there’s “going to be a shortage of white people pretty soon” if families continue to limit themselves to two kids, and feels right at home in an ornate courthouse because it’s where “an Italian contractor and an Irish politician got together and said, ‘Let’s get a Jew accountant and figure out how to rob the place blind!’ – which, of course, they did.”

Hayes is coming off a rough couple of weeks; he represents one of the recently convicted Mafia Cops and, until the other day, the gossip columnist accused of shaking down a billionaire. But no doubt being in the thick of two front-page cases is exactly where Hayes wants to be.

Miscellaneous: Links

It’s MySpace day. Slate considers the site’s effect on music, specifically the rise of “skank-pop.” Meanwhile, screenwriter John August doesn’t get it. Neither do I, which is why I don’t have a page there.