Usually, I’m the one hurling the disses, but believe me, I’ve gotten my share of insults, too. People have said some extremely rude things to me through the years — sometimes by accident, other times because they were drunk, and yet other times because they were fully sober and intended to maim.
A whole bevy of editors, celebrities, peers and friends have lobbed the most awful zingers my way — in between copious flattery, of course — with the following being the 15 most hideously damaging of all.
“You’re not important! No one cares what you say!”
A longtime “friend” screeched this to me on the phone a few years ago after I bragged about a TV appearance I’d just made. I had talked on a news show, in a comical but pointed way, about a pop-culture celebrity who opposed gay marital rights. This friend said my appearance was basically a joke and had no impact whatsoever because I was dabbling in a topic that was merely a distraction and was doing so with wisecracks. Wounded, I valiantly defended myself with, “Well, you love Chelsea Handler. I happen to use comedy to make my points, like she does.” And he replied, “But she’s important and makes a huge impact, and you don’t.” Newsflash: He’s no longer my “friend.”
“My boyfriend won’t mind. You’re so old.”
A drunken 20-something guy said this while aggressively coming on to me at a house party. He and his boyfriend had pledged monogamy, but he felt quite sure the beau would be OK with him doing it with me because I’m so hoary it wouldn’t really count as a human interaction. I graciously declined.
“Do you get paid?”
A famous photographer actually wondered if a certain alternative weekly that had me on the masthead for three decades really paid me or if it was somehow a comp position. I didn’t find that very flattering.
“That guy really slept with you? Come on, Musty!”
A show-bizzy friend of mine said this in relation to a semi-alluring foreign guy I’d had a very brief affair with in the ’90s. The friend was implying that the guy was way too hot for me, and I must have been lying about the whole thing. I wasn’t. Deal with it. And he wasn’t that hot, by the way.
“I tell people that every other week or so, you have something interesting in your column.”
This was said to me by an editor at a glossy monthly I worked for in the ’80s, and he actually thought I’d be thrilled by the compliment.
“Get an idea! There’s no idea in what you wrote!”
The same editor said that about an assignment I’d turned in to him. Of all the many edits I’ve received throughout the years, that one really stung. How’s that for an idea?
“This is the worst! I’m seated next to the Village Voice!”
A gossip columnist diva murmured that to a “Geraldo” producer during a commercial break of a show we were taping. And we were friends!
“Saban and Musto are the two most boring writers I have.”
Someone overheard an editor at the Soho Weekly News say that back in the early 1980s, when the alternative weekly suddenly started using me less and less. That’s OK. Stephen Saban and I went on to glory at Details and other publications.
“You were at Limelight [nightclub] so many, many, many, many years ago. I mean it was such a long, long, long time ago!”
So gurgled a drunken friend of a friend to me one night — over and over again, to the point of near-insanity. I got it! I’m old!
Comic Robert Klein: “You write brilliantly about people and things that don’t matter.”
I actually sort of don’t hate that remark. It’s better than, “You’re not important!”
A social-climbing cohort who usually had his tongue way up my ass was dining with me one night. In casual conversation with him, I remarked, “My parents are so non-verbal, it’s amazing I made it as a writer.” Without pausing for a beat, he blurted out the above comment — “Peaked!” — which was the exact moment our friendship started plummeting as well.
That’s Italian for “ugly.” And it was said about me by Federico Fellini’s casting director! Fellini, of course, did all those swirling, surreal Italian flicks which had lingering closeups of non-gorgeous faces, valiantly celebrating the beauty of the everyman. But he was a big phony. When I was introduced to the casting guy at a club and made a joke about wanting to be in a Fellini movie, he turned to his Italian friend and muttered the above, “Bruto!” Ever since then, I’ve thought the Fellini mystique is what’s gross.
“Puffy didn’t know who you were!”
This was said to me by a fellow journalist after I mentioned that Sean “Puffy” Combs had made a special point of stopping in the aisle on his way to a seat in a Broadway theater and touching me on the knee by way of saying hello. The journalist didn’t think it was possible that such a luminary actually knew a little wretch like me and even acknowledged me in public. I guess he thought the knee touching was just some kind of nervous tic or something. Jealous bitch!
“Tell Michael who she was doing.”
I was judging a drag contest recently when a contestant came out imitating Taylor Swift. I totally “got it” from the looks and music she was using, but when it came time for the judges to make a comment, the drag host said to one of the other judges, “Tell Michael who she was doing” — as if I’m so decrepit and out of it I couldn’t possibly know who Taylor Swift is. Please! I’ve been following that career for eight years!!! Someday she’ll probably even squeeze my knee.
“Does Musto mean something else here, or is he just being obvious as usual?”
Before e-mail arose as a form of communication, editors would exchange computer messages which would dot people’s copy with yellow notes questioning what was written. One time, I happened to log on and look at my weekly column-in-progress and saw a snippy little note from the copy boy to my editor. In referencing one of my wisecracks, he had typed in the above horror. He must have been stunned to get a yellow message back from me, saying, “When you’re my editor — which you never will be — you might be able to get away with saying shit like that, but for right now, you’d better can it.” Is that obvious enough?
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.