The Standard Interview

What We Learned in 2012 from Benh Zeitlin, Rodriguez, George Lois, and Others ...

We spoke to an awful lot of fascinating people this year as part of our Standard Interview series, each offering their own pearls of earthly wisdom. Let’s review shall we?

WHO: Lost-and-found Sixties folk legend Rodriguez

CLAIM TO FAME: Being presumed dead for decades by legions of South African fans until being rediscovered—alive and working construction—in Detroit, as chronicled in Waiting for Sugar Man, one of the year’s best documentaries.

WHAT WE LEARNED: That fate has a funny way of intervening when you least expect it, and that some dreams never die: “One thing that plays in my career is that I’m a lucky guy,” he told us. “And maybe that little bit of luck is enough. I always wanted a real gig—some stability—and I looked for that, but the world is in flux. It took a while, but I got one. It’s like, everybody wants to be but I think it’s about becoming.”

WHO: Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin

CLAIM TO FAME: His fantastical, humanistic folk tale about a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy won over audiences and critics alike, winning both the Palm d’Or at Cannes and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s currently an Oscar favorite.

WHAT WE LEARNED: That home is where you find it. Also, the power of persistence and sticking to one’s guns: “People would ask me, Why do people even live there? Why would you move there? Isn’t that place gonna be gone? But after being here for a few years and seeing what a ridiculous idea that was, I saw there was something that people were missing about why people stay here and stand by their place; stand by their home.”

WHO: Chicken With Plums Director Marjane Satrapi

CLAIM TO FAME: Iranian-born, Paris based writer/director. She won an Oscar for her film, Perseopolis

WHAT WE LEARNED: Perspective. When you go from being homeless to winning an Oscar, you get some. Marjane summed it up thusly: “I was like, okay, I’m homeless now, but for sure something is going to change. And if I was to redo my life, I would like to be homeless again because it has this plus. Once you have lived three months on the streets and know all the dangers that it means when you’re 17-years-old, you know that nothing worse can happen in your life. It’s total freedom.”

WHO: Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa of Warby Parker

CLAIM TO FAME: Founders of the fastest-growing eyewear company in the US.

WHAT WE LEARNED: That the eyewear industry is a fucked-up monopoly charging us a zillion dollars for little pieces of plastic. Warby Parker has figured out a way to delivery a great product at a great price. Watch out, world. The next big thing might already be sitting on your face.

WHO: Original super model Lisa Taylor

CLAIM TO FAME: Muse to Helmut Newton, Calvin Klein, Andy Warhol, and co-starred in 2012’s HBO film “About Face: Supermodels then and now”

WHAT WE LEARNED: That fashion photography in the '70s really changed advertising forever and it was the beauty and daring of women like Ms. Taylor who made that possible. On a smaller note, in our research for the interview, we came across this movie starring Tommy Lee Jones (Lisa’s BF of the time) and Faye Dunaway about a murderer who reenacts fashion shoots as crime scenes. Oh, the 70s.

WHO: Ad wizard George Lois

CLAIM TO FAME: Iconic Madison Avenue ad man on whom Mad Men’s Don Drapper is more or less based. Author of George, Be Careful and Damn Good Advice.

WHAT WE LEARNED: God, so much. Mostly, that you can’t believe everything you see on TV. Real ad men didn’t drink or womanize at work. Cooper Sterling Draper Price are hacks, fictional hacks, but you get the picture. That magazine covers used to blow people’s fucking minds. But mostly we learned this, “If it looks like shit, and it smells like shit, and it tastes like shit, you’re eatin’ shit, baby! And if you’re eatin’ shit and you’re working at a magazine, or you’re a fashion designer, or you’re a decorator—no matter what creative job it is—you know you’re eatin’ shit. And you know what? Stop eatin’ shit and go and get a better job.”

Words to live by.

Happy 2013 everybody!

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