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Q&A: Liz Phair

Liz Phair Lays Golden Egg


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“I don’t want to get locked into another bad stereotype. I’m tired of that ‘She’s a slut, how controversial’ thing.”

LIZ PHAIR TYPHOONS into a Manhattan meeting spot, throws her tiny, buff frame onto a couch and immediately begins to chat. She’s a girl’s girl, Phair is, cracking jokes, squeezing your arm conspiratorially, guffawing through forkfuls of Caesar salad. After a long absence (she released Whip-Smart in ’94, then got hitched and had a baby boy, Nicholas), the thirty-one-year-old Chicago native returns with the exceptional Whitechocolatespaceegg. She’s also playing Lilith, which has her exceedingly nervous. If you go, kindly do her a solid and mill around looking preoccupied. “Braid each other’s hair,” she begs. “Do something.”

Were you ever tempted in your domestic bliss to scrap your career?

Every other day [laughs]. When [Nicholas] was just a little lump and he was, like, blinking at me? I just wanted to build this super-safe utopic world for him. But he grew; I grew, too. He turned outward in his interests, and so did I. [Dreamily] He’s really… OK, don’t get me talking about my baby!

What do you feel your image is?

I think people can tell I’ve gotten older. They’re putting more makeup on my face. And people have the sense that I’ve been in the business a long time. So now it’s like, “Let’s get reacquainted with Liz Phair!” This time, I want to make sure I don’t get locked into another bad stereotype. I was tired of that “She’s a slut, how controversial” thing, when it was more of an art-school mentality that led me to say those things anyway. I thought it was interesting to be girlish while expressing intimidating, frank sexual thoughts.

Do old boyfriends think every old song is about them?

Oh, yeah.

You probably have good relationships with old boyfriends.

Not at all. I don’t speak to a one.

Give me one of your happiest childhood memories.

Swinging on my grandmother’s hammock, the Fourth of July. My grandmother lived on many acres of woods with streams – and it even had a farm where they stabled horses for a while. I just remember swinging back and forth, your family was around, you could smell the barbecue going, and pretty soon it was going to get dark and they were gonna start the fireworks, and it was the best feeling.

You kind of dig coming from the suburbs, don’t you?

I was raised in the suburbs, and you can’t fault me, just like you can’t fault someone who grew up in the city for not liking ticks and burs. I mean, picture this: A bunch of girls I knew from high school do these TGIF things. You drink wine, and kids are running all over the place. The sun is setting. We’ve been down to the beach with the kids; we’re herding them back, and they’re squealing, naked, running. We’re all hanging out on a summer porch, drinking chardonnay. It’s like the kickback day, and it’s perfect.

Although you don’t drink much, do you?

No. I can’t hold my alcohol, and I don’t even like it. Only when I’m out being fabulous, and then it’s only one or two. And I’m a mom – there’s no time for pot. When I was pregnant, I was so sober it was like being in the prow of a ship at sea in a gale. Reality just came straight toward me with no buffering at all.

How old were you when you had your first kiss?

Five or six. It was so horrible that it ruined the friendship.

What? What kind of friendship do you have when you’re six?

He was my best friend. My brother made me do it. And I was just like, “Ewww.” And then in freshman year, I had to French-kiss, and again it was totally disgusting. It took me a weekend to get over it. He was popular, and all my friends were really happy because I had glasses and braces, and somehow my hair managed to be hideous at that point, too. I’d been, like, a pretty girl my whole life. So when everyone was like, “He’s really popular and he likes you,” I was forced into it. But then I remember that the next make-out session hooked me for life, because I finally realized it was who you did it with. 

By Jancee Dunn
Rolling Stone, August 20, 1998

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