After a flurry of calls with Liz Phair’s publicist in New York and near tussels with a box office lady*, a photographer* and a journalist*, I finally made my way to Liz, who was perched on a bar stool and seemed to be in a good mood. Her songs burn bright and I love to listen to them and I have nothing to say about them, so I asked about her money instead. The head of the Liz Phair industry (Liz Phair) struck me as fake (super-adroitly charming), but I’m sure she’s not fake when she’s dealing with people who she chooses to be with instead of strangers crowding around to ask questions. As an interviewee, she’s indefatigable — smiling and thoroughly attentive to all. She touched my thigh several times. She was wearing a candy necklace that she nibbled on from time to time, and she gazed into my eyes quite a bit. When Rob’t Nedelkoff came to introduce himself, she gazed into his eyes. Rob’t later described Liz thus: “She looked very nice. Golly. She’s very charming. Her skin was glistening and the fibers on her sweater were starting to rise up. Static electricity. This whole aura of shininess was coming across.”
LISA: [pointing at the previous interviewer’s back] Who was that?
LIZ PHAIR: [whispers] I don’t know!
LISA: What a bitch!
LISA: First I was listening to her talk to you about places and I thought she was boring, then she told me to stop eavesdropping and I thought, “She’s boring and she’s a bitch, too!”
LIZ: AH, HAHA! Cool sweater. I like that.
LISA: Thanks. I’ve never waited in line to get 30 minutes to talk to someone before. How star-like! I feel important by proximity.
LIZ: I even have a Nightmare Before Christmas stopwatch. Look.
LIZ: You don’t like my watch!
LISA: No, I like it. You’re going to be sorry you sent me away at three o’clock [because things were running a half-hour late], because that gave me time to eat a lot of M&M’s, and I’m feeling sugar aggression.
LIZ: Uh-HEH! Mm!
LISA: You’re getting $4,000 for one night’s work tonight.
LIZ: Am I?
LISA: Yes. $2,000 per show.
LIZ: We usually get a $1,500 guarantee. You should ask my guitarist. I’m pretty not money-oriented. I like it and I want more, but I don’t keep track of it and I spend it fast.
LISA: It’s a dream. You’re rich!
LIZ: Not really. Do you think so? I’m on Matador. I usually make a couple thousand off anything I do. I probably make $15,000 a year.
LISA: That’s ridiculous — Exile in Guyville sold 100,000 copies.
LIZ: I haven’t gotten my royalties yet, but I have to pay Brad [drummer/producer/arranger, etc.], and [Matador] will recoup half of our video budget, they recoup advertising… There’s all these stories about people who are on MTV and they don’t have any money — it’s really true. I’m living off my boyfriend right now.
LISA: That’s pathetic for a person as well-known as you.
LIZ: If I want to be on Atlantic I have to sign, and they say I can have whatever I want, and I’d have more money, but that wouldn’t necessarily make my life more enjoyable. I have a pretty good, responsibility-free situation. Whereas if I started pulling in the big bucks, there’d be a whole industry surrounding Liz Phair. All the people that get you the money are also gonna work you for the money.
LISA: Somebody told me they sent you a check for a Girly Sound tape and you cashed it and never sent him the tape.
LIZ: What about all those checks? Most of them are in a big bag at my parents’. I didn’t open the mail. I’ve never written letters in my life, not even to my grandmother. So I was horrified by all this mail — “No, no, no!” I opted out of the fan.[A bunch of people come to say Hi eagerly. Like Liz, her fans have immaculate skin and healthy, shining hair.]
LISA: Look at all these people fighting over you. I almost decked your last interviewer, and now there’s another one patiently waiting his turn… And this has been going on for two days in this city alone. Do you feel attacked?
LIZ: I used to. Maturity is not taking everything personally, not thinking everything moves and shakes because of you. I have five more interviews to do before sound check, and of course everything’s running late. Everything gets backed up and everyone wants something from you. People are always hanging around at shows… You wouldn’t believe the calls I get. People calling my brother… But I don’t think it’s bad or unusual.
LISA: Do you ever tell someone, “You’re a real bore and you’re wasting my time — go away”?
LIZ: No. A couple people call my boyfriend’s house and I’m polite but blunt about telling them that I don’t take calls there. They want to tell you how much you mean to them, and you can’t say, “Fuck you, you loser” — but at the same time you’ve got to.
LISA: I’ve heard a lot of bitter rumors about you –“
LISA: Is there something in you that brings out people’s nastiness?
LIZ: Totally. I’m a fighter and I say what I think, and that pisses people off. I don’t seek out confrontation, but I won’t back down from it. And I’m opportunistic. I’ve never done it intentionally at someone else’s expense, but you can always read into that.
LISA: People get all mad and offended when a person accepts good fortune instead of fucking things up for him- or herself.
LIZ: I’ve always been someone who uses my opportunities. I have room to grow —
LIZ: — in sensitivity.
LISA: Oh! I thought you meant room to take bigger and BIGGER opportunities!
LIZ: Yeah! I’m ambitious, what the fuck.
LISA: Here’s some stuff I’ve heard about you: You’re a dominatrix.
LISA: I heard you sucked Gerard [Cosloy] off to get the Matador contract.
LIZ: Of course not! Don’t be stupid. I’ve never slept with anyone for business.
LISA: You don’t think that could be taking advantage of an opportunity?
LIZ: No. I don’t think that gets you anything. I think if you have a good product, it’ll sell. I never rely on social connections. I use them; I don’t rely on them.
LISA: Are men attracted to the fact that you’re 5’2″?
LIZ: I don’t think so. I’ve always wanted to be taller. I feel my body will never be sleek and long enough. Men think I’m cute, yeah — I can get away with stuff in traffic court ’cause I’m cute and blue-eyed. I prefer women who can smarm around or not — they can get what they want through other means. I prefer that social pimping is purely fun — entertainment.
LISA: Do you basically say the same things in every interview?
LIZ: No. Almost never. They ask a lot of the same questions; it’s hard to come up with new answers. They never ask me if I sucked off Gerard or how much I’m making!
STEVE JENNINGS: Hi Liz. Steve.
Interview by Lisa Carver
Rollerderby #14, 1994