Bash Compactor: The Full Price

Written by Matt Harvey on . Posted in Bash Compactor, Posts.


As a polite octogenarian couple slowly polished off their meal, Richard Price, the
Bronx-born author of Lush Life, was on stage riffing about his
tough-guy grandfather clocking a woman with a baseball bat in 1915.The
curse-laden, motor-mouthed monologue was the money shot of the Joe
Pub’s premiere of the Happy Ending Reading Series. Idling then revving
Lenny Bruce–style, the lit star shrugged his shoulders like a
gun-toting movie gangster and rapped, “He was like one of those psycho
violent White Heat guys, you know?” Price had his grandfather running
from Murder Inc. on the Lower East Side and winding smack dab into the
hands of tattoo happy anti-Semitic sailors in Algeria.

Price
warmed up for the punch line, “So, my grandfather says to the ship
doctor…” Then he breathed in the ghost of his ancestor and spat,
“‘I’d rather die of gangrene then go home to my muddah with a cross on
my arm.’“ Somewhere, Jimmy Cagney was smiling.

Afterward, Amanda Stern, emcee of the event, held court in the basement of Marion’s on the Bowery. Matt Caws, the
shaggy mopped front man of Nada Surf, was buzzing energetically after a
solo turn following Price’s performance. The Manhattan-born
40-something laughingly copped to ignorance of the present New York
music scene. “I’ve had enough nightlife for ten lifetimes,” he said.
The man of the hour—Price—walked by with a container of sushi in a
white plastic bag. He sat next to his daughter Gen, a
22year-old Tisch student with movie-star good looks. After bristling a
little at the thought of an interview, he relented and said, “I can eat
and talk at the same time.” He didn’t have much to say about the
obviously indelible mark the old films, which he had referenced on
stage, left on him. His voice rising in volume, he said, “They were
fucking movies! I always knew that.”When his white wine was brought
over to the table he quipped to Gen, “You get that, and I’ll get your
tuition.”

Through a mouthful of raw fish he announced his
daughter had appeared on the last season of The Wire. Price swallowed
his food and intoned seriously, “She played a crack head.” I tried to
nod seriously. Wait, huh? His tough-guy mug didn’t budge as he let me
have the one-two. “I always wanted to see my daughter grow up to become
a crack whore.”

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