The Felix Dennis Tapes, Part 3: "The Respectfulness Accorded Is Quite Astonishing, And It's Not Earned"Jon Fine
(Part three in our ongoing series of interview excerpts, in which Dennis mocks American self-seriousness. Previous entries can be found here and here; a column I wrote following this interview is here. All interview excerpts are lightly edited.)
FD: ([n the middle of a long riff on how Americans take themselves far too seriously.] And I think Americans are really serious about not being bankrupt.
BW: Which is a reasonable goal.
FD: [Ignores interviewer's witless comment.] Americans take their career terribly seriously, and that’s proven by the immense amount of effort that goes into title engineering. Not only Britain, but the rest of Europe rocks with laughter at this! The Stones, 30 years ago [more like 45, alas], wrote a song “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man.” Which was a real card! I mean, this shows a kind of seriousness that isn’t very healthy. It’s just daft! You’re the [expletive] coffeeboy, for christ's sakes. Just ridiculous.
Editors in chief [in America] expect to be treated like little gods. You don’t treat them in Britain or France like gods. You treat them like the pieces of [expletive] they are! You know, this is ridiculous! I could never get over how tremendously respectful people are in America if you own a couple of magazines-–the respectfulness accorded is quite astonishing, and it’s not earned. It’s not worth it, and that is another reason why insufficient people [follow] their ambitions.
(Laughing) It really does come from that old puritan DNA lodged in the genes. That puritan gene just won’t go away. Just keeps on repeating. Not only in the northeast of America, but in many, many other states and areas of America. It’s not important, for christ's sakes. You’re a [expletive] ant running around in the world. You’re born, you live, you die. Why not take more risk?