Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mike Sager

A brief Q & A with Mike Sager, author of High Tolerance:

How would you complete this line: "You might well enjoy my book if you like...."

You might well enjoy my book if you liked… The movie Crash, the show Weeds, or Tom Wolfe’s book Bonfire of the Vanities­—or have an interest in Hollywood celebrity, sex, drugs, music, crime, race relations, murder, or medical marijuana. High Tolerance is the result of my three decades working behind the scenes in LA and Hollywood for Rolling Stone and Esquire. I got the idea for the book during the Writer’s Guild of America strike in 2008. My first act of research was to walk the picket line for a few days with a writer/producer friend. For research I also: Worked in a medical marijuana shop in Malibu. Smoked pot with Snoop Dogg. Smoked freebase with Rick James. Spent three days and nights with Paris Hilton, two dinners with Angelina Jolie, three days with Diane Lane, an afternoon with Hilary Swank, an evening with Joan Baez many years ago in Washington, DC­—she rode on the back of my motorcycle and it was reported in the Washington Times. Performed on a rap song with Ice Cube. Frequented Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Station police precinct. Also helpful were some of my other journalistic experiences, including: Living with a crack gang in Venice; working as Rolling Stone’s drugs correspondent and covering the War on Drugs; writing extensively about the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King (I eventually met both Rodney and one of the two friends who was with him in the car that fateful night). And of course I spent nearly two decades as a husband and a coach and remain a father to this day of a bi-racial child. They say you should write about what you know. This is what I’ve learned in nearly forty years with my boots on the ground.

If they make your book into a movie, who should direct it?

PT Anderson was inspired by my Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes,” to create the classic movie Boogie Nights. I think he would do great with High Tolerance. My book has a lot of fun stuff—drugs, music, a beautiful starlet, a billionaire rap mogul, a sex tape that is leaked to the world—but it’s also about fatherhood and race and celebrity and the impact of the media on lives and perceptions around the entire world. In other words, like Boogie Nights, there’s a spoonful of medicine with the sugar, a little depth there with the fun. Boogie Nights is a classic because it caught the zeitgeist of the era, the universality. I think High Tolerance tries to go there too.

What is your second favorite art form?

All artists have inside them a similar creative flame. If we’re lucky, we find the right apparatus with which to apply it. I started with guitar and moved to photography, but I settled on words because that’s the medium that felt most natural. I think prose has within it the ability to express all five senses and all the forms of art. And even more, writing can explore the deeper parts that pictures can’t tell. I grew up in the sixties, a child of television and the movies. I’ve always had a cinematic approach to my writing; I use scenes and characters and dialogue in my stories as a director might use in a film. Whether I’m doing non-fiction journalism or writing a novel, I always feel like I’m making movies with my words.
Visit Mike Sager's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue