U2 Pop Culture Database
Bret Easton Ellis [Less Than Zero, The Rules Of Attraction]
U2 Pop Culture Reference:
[Page 142. Chapter Title is "Concert". The Narrator, Patrick Bateman, is a designer-label-wearing, drug-taking, Wall Street broker, who happens to torture and kill women in his spare time. The names of the other characters are not important. They go to a U2 concert almost by default and end up in the front row. Sort of like a fan's nightmare, right? These are probably the type of people with the VIP passes spilling beer in the heart.]
Besides U2, is it worth reading?
Everyone is very uptight at the concert Carruthers drags us to in New Jersey this evening, an Irish band called U2 who were on the cover of Time magazine last week. The tickets were originally for a group of Japanese clients who canceled their trip to New York at the last minute, making it virtually impossible for Carruthers (or so he says) to sell these front-row seats. So it's Carruthers and Courtney, Paul Owen and Ashley Cromwell, and Evelyn and myself. Earlier, when I found out that Paul Owen was coming, I tried to call Cecilia Wagner, Marcus Halberstam's girlfriend, since Paul Owen seems fairly sure that I'm Marcus, and though she was flattered by my invitation (I always suspected I was one of her crushes) she had to attend a black-tie party for the opening of the new British musical Maggie! But she did mention something about lunch next week and I told her I would give her a call on Thursday. I was supposed to have dinner with Evelyn tonight, but the thought of sitting alone with her during a two-hour meal fills me with a nameless dread and so I call and reluctantly explain the schedule changes and she asks if Tim Price is coming and when I tell her no, there is the briefest hesitation before she accepts and then I cancel the reservation Jean made for us at H2O, the new Clive Powell restaurant in Chelsea, and leave the office early for a quick aerobics class before the concert.
None of the girls are particularly excited about seeing the band and all have confided in me, separately, that they don't want to be here, and in the limousine heading towards somewhere called the Meadowlands, Carruthers keeps trying to placate everyone by telling us that Donald Trump is a big U2 fan and then, even more desperately, that John Gutfreund also buys their records. A bottle of Cristal is opened, then another. The TV is tuned to a press conference Reagan's giving but there's a lot of static and no one pays attention, except for me. The Patty Winters Show this morning was about Shark Attack Victims. Paul Owen has called me Marcus four times and Evelyn, much to my relief, Cecilia twice, but Evelyn doesn't notice since she's been glaring at Courtney the entire time we've been in the limousine. Anyway, no one has corrected Owen and it's unlikely that anyone will. I even call her Cecilia a couple of times myself when I was sure she wasn't listening, while she was staring hatefully at Courtney. Carruthers keeps telling me how nice I look and complimenting my suit.
Evelyn and I are by far the best-dressed couple. I'm wearing a lamb's wool topcoat, a wool jacket with wool flannel trousers, a cotton shirt, a cashmere V-neck sweater and a silk tie, all from Armani. Evelyn's wearing a cotton blouse by Dolce & Gabbana, suede shoes by Yves Saint Laurent, a stenciled calf skirt by Adrienne Landau with a suede belt by Jill Stuart, Calvin Klein tights, Venetian-glass earrings by Frances Patiky Stein, and clasped in her hand is a single white rose that I bought at a Korean deli before Carruthers' limousine picked me up. Carruthers is wearing a lamb's wool sport coat, a cashmere/vicuna cardigan sweater, cavalry twill trousers, a cotton shirt and a silk tie, all from Hermes. ("How tacky," Evelyn whispered to me; I silently agreed.) Courtney is wearing a triple-layered silk organdy top and a long velvet skirt with a fishtail hem, velvet-ribbon and enamel earrings by Jose and Maria Barrera, gloves by Portolano and shoes from Gucci. Paul and Ashley are, I think, a bit overdressed, and she has sunglasses on even though the windows in the limo are tinted and it's already dusk. She holds a small bouquet of flowers, daisies, Carruthers gave her, which failed to make Courtney jealous since she seems intent upon clawing Evelyn's face open, which right now, though it's the better-looking face, seems not a bad idea and one I wouldn't mind watching Courtney carry out. Courtney has a slightly better body, Evelyn nicer tits.
The concert has been dragging on now for maybe twenty minutes. I hate live music but everyone around us is standing, their screams of approval competing with the racket coming from the towering walls of speakers stacked over us. The only real pleasure I get from being here is seeing Scott and Anne Smiley ten rows behind us, in shittier though probably not less expensive seats. Carruthers changes seats with Evelyn to discuss business with me, but I can't hear a word so I change seats with Evelyn to talk to Courtney.
"Luis is a weasel," I shout. "He suspects nothing."
"The Edge is wearing Armani," she shouts, pointing at the bassist.
"That's not Armani," I shout back. "It's Emporio."
"No," she shouts. "Armani."
"The grays are too muted and so are the taupes and navies. Definite winged lapels, subtle plaids, polka dots and stripes are Armani, Not Emporio," I shout, extremely irritated that she doesn't know this, can't differentiate, both my hands covering both ears. "There's a difference. Which one's The Ledge?"
"The drummer might be The Ledge," she shouts. "I think. I'm not sure. I need a cigarette. Where were you the other night? If you tell me with Evelyn I'm going to hit you."
"The drummer is not wearing anything by Armani," I scream. "Or Emporio for that matter. Nowhere."
"I don't know which one the drummer is," she shouts.
"Ask Ashley," I suggest, screaming.
"Ashley?" she screams, reaching over across Paul and tapping Ashley's leg. "Which one's The Ledge?" Ashley shouts something at her that I can't hear and then Courtney turns back to me, shrugging. "She said she can't believe she's in New Jersey."
Carruthers motions for Courtney to change seats with him. She waves the little twit away and grips my thigh, which I flex rock-hard, and her hand lingers admiringly. But Luis persists and she gets up, and screams at me, "I think we need drugs tonight!" I nod. The lead singer, Bono, is screeching out what sounds like "Where the Beat Sounds the Same." Evelyn and Ashley leave to buy cigarettes, use the ladies' room, find refreshments. Luis sits next to me.
"The girls are bored," Luis screams at me.
"Courtney wants us to find her some cocaine tonight," I shout.
"Oh, great." Luis looks sulky.
"Do we have reservations anywhere?"
"Brussels," he shouts, checking his Rolex. "But it's doubtful if we'll make it."
"If we don't make it," I warn him, "I'm not going anywhere else. You can drop me at my apartment."
"We'll make it," he shouts.
"If we don't, what about Japanese?" I suggest, relenting. "There's a really top sushi bar on the Upper West Side. Blades. Chef used to be at Isoito. It got a great rating in Zagat."
"Bateman, I hate the Japanese," Carruthers screams at me, one hand placed over an ear. "Little slanty-eyed bastards."
"What," I scream, "in hell are you talking about?"
"Oh I know, I know," he screams, eyes bulging. "They save more than we do and they don't innovate much, but they sure in the fuck know how to take, steal, our innovations, improve on them, then ram them down our fucking throats!"
I stare at him, disbelieving for a moment, then look at the stage, at the guitarist running around in circles, Bono's arms outstretched as he runs back and forth across the length of its edge, and then back at Luis whose face is still crimson with fury and he's staring at me wide-eyed, spittle on his lips, not saying anything.
"What in the hell does that have to do with Blades?" I ask finally, genuinely confused. "Wipe your mouth."
"That's why I hate Japanese food," he screams back. "Sashimi. California roll. Oh Jesus." He makes a gagging motion, with one finger going down his throat.
"Carruthers..." I stop, still looking at him, studying his face closely, slightly freaked out, unable to remember what I wanted to say.
"What, Bateman?" Carruthers asks, leaning in.
"Listen, I can't believe this shit," I scream. "I can't believe you didn't make the reservations for later. We're going to have to wait."
"What?" he screams, cupping his ear, as if it makes a difference.
"We are going to have to wait!" I scream louder.
"This is not a problem," he shouts.
The lead singer reaches out to us from the stage, his hand outstretched, and I wave him away. "It's okay? It's okay? No, Luis. You're wrong. It's not okay." I look over at Paul Owen, who seems equally bored, his hands clamped over both ears, but still managing to confer with Courtney about something.
"We won't have to wait," Luis screams. "I promise."
"Promise nothing, you geek," I scream, the, "Is Paul Owen still handling the Fisher account?"
"I don't want you to be mad at me, Patrick," Luis screams desperately. "It'll be all right."
"Oh Jesus, forget it," I scream. "Now listen to me: is Paul Owen still handling the Fisher account?"
Carruthers looks over at him and then back at me. "Yeah, I guess. I heard Ashley has chlamydia."
"I'm going to talk to him," I shout, getting up, taking the empty seat next to Owen.
But when I sit down something strange on the stage catches my eye. Bono has now moved across the stage, following me to my seat, and he's staring into my eyes, kneeling at the edge of the stage, wearing black jeans (maybe Gitano), sandals, a leather vest with no shirt beneath it. His body is white, covered with sweat, and it's not worked out enough, there's no muscle tone and what definition there might be is covered beneath a paltry amount of chest hair. He has a cowboy hat on and his hair is pulled back into a ponytail and he's moaning some dirge--I catch the lyric "A hero is an insect in this world"--and he has a faint, barely noticeable, but nonetheless intense smirk on his face and it grows, spreading across it confidently, and while his eyes blaze, the backdrop of the stage turns red and suddenly I get this tremendous surge of feeling, this rush of knowledge, and I can see into Bono's heart and my own beats faster because of this and I realize that I'm receiving a message of some kind from the singer. It hits me that we have something in common, that we share a bond, and it's not impossible to believe that an invisible cord attached to Bono has now encircled me and now the audience disappears and the music slows down, gets softer, and it's just Bono onstage--the stadium's deserted, the band fades away--and the message, his message, once vague, now gets more powerful and he's nodding at me and I'm nodding back, everything getting clearer, my body alive and burning, on fire, and from nowhere a flash of white and blinding light envelopes me and I hear it, can actually feel, can even make out the letters of the message hovering above Bono's head in orange wavy letters: "I . . . am . . . the . . . devil . . . and I am . . . just . . . like . . . you . . ."
And then everyone, the audience, the band, reappears and the music slowly swells up and Bono, sensing that I've received the message--I actually know that he feels me reacting to it--is satisfied and turns away and I'm left tingling, my face flushed, an aching erection pulsing against my thigh, my hands clenched in fists of tension. But suddenly everything stops, as if a switch has been turned off, the backdrop flashes back to white. Bono--the devil--is on the other side of the stage now and everything, the feeling in my heart, the sensation combing my brain, vanishes and now more than ever I need to know about the Fisher account that Owen is handling and this information seems vital, more pertinent than the bond of similarity I have with Bono, who is now dissolving and remote. I turn to Paul Owen.
"Hey," I shout. "How's it going?"
"Those guys over there . . . " He motions toward a group of stagehands standing by the edge of the far side of the front row, peering into the crowd, conferring with one another. "They were pointing over here at Evelyn and Courtney and Ashley."
"Who are they?" I shout. "Are they from Oppenheimer?"
"No," Owen shouts back. "I think they're roadies who look for chicks to go backstage and have sex with the band."
"Oh," I scream. "I thought maybe they worked at Barney's."
"No," he shouts. "They're called trim coordinators."
"How do you know that?"
"I have a cousin who manages All We Need of Hell," he shouts.
"It's irritating that you know this," I say.
"What?" he shouts.
"Are you still handling the Fisher account?" I shout back.
"Yeah," he screams. "Lucked out, huh, Marcus?"
"You sure did," I scream. "How did you get it?"
"Well, I had the Ransom account and things just fell into place." He shrugs helplessly, the smooth bastard. "You know?"
"Wow," I shout.
"Yeah," he shouts back, then turns around in his seat and shouts at two dumb-looking fat girls from New Jersey passing an oversize joint between them, one of the cows wrapped in what I'm guessing is the Irish flag. "Will you please put your skunkweed away--it reeks."
"I want it," I shout, staring at his perfect, even part; even his scalp is tan.
"You want what?" he shouts back. "Marijuana?"
"No. Nothing," I scream, my throat raw, and I slump back into my seat, stare emptily at the stage, biting my thumbnail, ruining yesterday's manicure.
We leave after Evelyn and Ashley return and later, in the limousine racing back toward Manhattan to make the reservation at Brussels, another bottle of Cristal opened, Reagan still on the television set, Evelyn and Ashley tell us that two bouncers accosted them near the ladies' room and demanded they come backstage. I explain who they were and what purpose they serve.
"My god," Evelyn gasps. "Are you telling me I've been . . . trim-coordinated?"
"I bet Bono has a small dick," Owen says, staring out the tinted window. "Irish, you know."
"Do you think they had an automated teller back there?" Luis asks.
"Ashley," Evelyn shouts. "Did you hear that? We've been trim-coordinated!"
"How does my hair look?" I ask.
"More Cristal?" Courtney asks Luis.
[Page 235. Patrick is having dinner with his ex-girlfriend. She asks him why he's shaking his leg. He says he likes the music, which is Belinda Carlisle.]
I hold my leg still and pretend to listen. "But it's one of her songs," I say, then lamely add, "I think it's called 'Heaven Is a Place on Earth.' You know it."
"Listen," she says, "have you gone to any concerts lately?"
"No," I say, wishing she hadn't brought this, of all topics, up. "I don't like live music."
"Live music?" she asks, intrigued, sipping San Pellegrino water.
"Yeah. You know. Like a band," I explain, sensing from her expression that I'm saying totally the wrong things. "Oh, I forgot. I did see U2."
"How were they?" she asks. "I liked the new CD a lot."
"They were great, just totally great. Just totally . . . " I pause, unsure of what to say. Bethany raises her eyebrows quizzically, wanting to know more. "Just totally . . . Irish."
"I've heard they're quite good live," she says, and her own voice has a light, musical lilt to it. "Who else do you like?"
"Oh you know," I say, completely stuck. "The Kingsmen. 'Louie, Louie.' That sort of stuff.:
This is a tough question. As a satire, it borders on brilliance. Try reading the scholarly essays on Phil Collins and Whitney Houston without laughing. It is a send-up of the 80s when a person's clothing labels or getting into the hot restaurant gave him or her a sense of self-worth. It's funny that no one ever recognizes anyone else and they all call each other the wrong names. No one knows who anyone is. Having said that, I stopped reading six months ago on page 370. It was repetitious and absolutely brutal. I have never put a book down because of its brutality before, and I've read everything Stephen King has written. There are sex scenes that start out fine and begin to get hot, and then the murder and dismemberment starts and you feel like taking a shower. I will finish one day, I'm just not ready now.
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copyright © 2001 Michael Warner Cummins
Most recent update: 6/15/01 11:19:43 AM
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