18+ [H]er quest to mold herself into an ideal of urban sophistication, the New Jersey-born co-ed gets more than she bargained for, triggering a chain of events that will have lasting repercussions.
It's the early 1980s, MTV is in its infancy, the Internet does not exist, Ronald Reagan is president and yuppies are ruling Wall Street. Edie is a naïve NYU student desperate to lose her virginity and to experience adventure that will finally make her worldly, setting her further apart from her bland suburban roots. But in her quest to mold herself into an ideal of urban sophistication, the New Jersey-born co-ed gets more than she bargained for, triggering a chain of events that will have lasting repercussions.
Ten Things You Don’t Know About “Love, Loss and Longing in the Age of Reagan: Diary of a Mad Club Girl” by Iris Dorbian
1. The story is loosely inspired on my misadventures as a college student in New York City in the early 1980s. About 75 percent is true; the rest has been embellished or completely fabricated.
2. The original draft was written ten years ago. It took about six months to complete. Since then, it has undergone four revisions.
3. Edie becomes obsessed with attending NYU, which is located in the heart of Greenwich Village, after attending a forgettable performance of an obscure Middle Eastern band at Café Feenjon (which no longer exists) on MacDougal Street. Although the show was mediocre, what was unfolding outside on the street transfixed Edie so much, she became determined to move into that area.
4. The name “Edie” was what my mother wanted to originally name me after she gave birth to me. My mother and father were looking for a name in English that was comparable to my father’s maternal grandmother Ita. My mother loved the actress/comedienne Edie Adams, who was the wife of early 1960s TV comic pioneer Ernie Kovacs and suggested the name Edie to my father. Dad didn’t like the name and suggested the name “Iris,” the name of a coworker’s daughter. Because I do see Edie as a streamlined alter ego, it was a no brainer the character would be anointed with that name.
5. During the time Edie attends NYU, the AIDS crisis starts to rear its unsightly head. As Edie describes the beginning of the plague, very little is known about it except for this: if you were infected around that time, it was sadly a death sentence. Edie’s worries about this scary disease has brought into greater context when she gets involved with another student, Bobby, a promiscuous young man who’s being “kept” by an older affluent man. Although Bobby sleeps with both men and women, he does identify as gay.
6. The chapter devoted to Edie’s job as a cocktail waitress at the local rock club The Ritz (now called Webster Hall) is based on my own experiences working there one semester while attending classes.
7. Two art house movie theaters that are referenced heavily in the book are the Bleecker Street Cinema and Cinema Village. Edie and Peter see several films at the former while Edie’s roommate and college best friend Chloe works as a cashier at the latter. The Bleecker Street Cinema closed in 1991; Cinema Village is still open but it’s now focused on mostly showing foreign and independent movies.
8. The assassination of John Lennon did happen when I was in college. Much of what transpires when Edie finds out about the murder and tells Peter is loosely inspired by my own experiences finding out about the tragic event.
9. Edie and I share many commonalities. Like me, she’s from suburban Northern New Jersey; she’s Jewish, bookish, loves the Who and the Beatles; and is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a first-generation Israeli woman. But there are differences: even when she’s making the wrong decisions, Edie is infinitely more intelligent, thoughtful and rational than I was when I was in school. I was a twit, to put it kindly. Edie’s a streamlined college version of me.
10. And, yes, NYU’s Sociology Department did offer a class called “Society and Sexual Variations,” which I (like Edie in the book) took to fulfill my sociology minor. And yes, like Edie, I ended up writing a paper on bestiality after not being able to find that much information on my initial choice—necrophilia. Penthouse’s Forum section was a treasure trove of information on bestiality, I kid you not.
After sleeping through the next two days, I found myself wide awake, playing the grooves out of Flock of Seagull’s “Telecommunication” on my roommate’s turntable. For some inexplicable reason, I always felt compelled to play this vinyl disc as nightly ritual in preparation for my job at the Ritz.
As droning synthesizers ushered in this song, which sounded like something George and Jane Jetson would listen to on crack, I’d pull out from my bureau the short and slightly pleated black skirt I got at Macy’s at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey. The store was having a special “New Wave” sale and I, eager, to fortify my loyalty to the passing trends of my volatile youth, bought up some stock that consisted of a yellow lame dress that I had convinced myself looked like it came out of the ‘20s and a really cool Betsy Johnson sweater skirt that had purple and pink butterflies strewn all over it. Because Ritz management decreed that all waitresses wear black, I shoved my legs into black Capezio tights and threw on a black sweater whose sleeves and collar were trimmed with a furry boa I adored.
Usually by the time the tune ended, I was ready to go, dressed head to toe in full Ritz regalia. This was my cue to turn the needle back to where it started, scratch it up some more and play the ditty yet again. I fed off every detail of this clockwork ritual, the way a diabetic feeds off insulin. It was a necessary prelude to an evening rarely without consequence. I was steeling myself for the possible insanity that awaited me.
About the author:
Iris Dorbian is a former actress turned business journalist/blogger. Her articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, DMNews, CFO.com, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of “Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater," which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Jewish Literary Journal, Skirt! Diverse Voices Quarterly and Gothesque Magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
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