Fans of MTV’s JACKASS may best remember Chris Nieratko as the elf that puked on that fat dude, or one of the guys who ate a bunch of eggs ala Cool Hand Luke and then vomited them up on camera. Skaters and hipsters have been reading his sordid tales of drunken debauchery over the past eight years in Big Brother and VICE. His first book, Skinema, is a collection of stories from his drug addled life, published under the guise of adult DVD reviews and culled from the pages of VICE. During a stop in Southern California on his recent summer book tour, I was lucky to sit down with Chris and get him on the record about Skinema, his wedding day re-enactment of the Zapruder film, and just how he was able to remember all those fucked up stories while in the apparent throes of substance abuse.
So is this like a book tour/vacation for you and your wife?
Chris Nieratko: The end of it is a vacation for me, when I get to see her and end it in Maui. We’re going to go to APB skate shop out there, so that’ll be the vacation part of it for me. It’s been good, I’ve been getting to see a lot of friends and just meeting a lot of new people, but I don’t have the endurance I used to have ten years ago, man.
How many cities are you covering?
Let’s see, so far it’s: Tampa, Atlanta, Austin, San Diego, LA, SF, Portland and Hawaii, so eight.
Is Hawaii where you guys honeymooned?
No. Two days in Paris and then a month in Portugal for our honeymoon.
You taped a re-enactment of the Zapruder film on your wedding day, are you ever going to do anything with that, or was that just for fun?
That’s just for my home wedding video, it wasn’t for anything special. I re-enacted the JFK assassination for my wedding video. Just to be funny. I’m not getting married [twice,] and if this one don’t pan out, then I’ll never get married again. So I just wanted to have as much fun as humanly possible with the entire event.
Are you ever going to make that available to the public?
I haven’t even seen it! They sent me a Quicktime of it. I saw the Quicktime and that’s about it. I think I’ll put it up on my site one day because everybody keeps asking me about it and I keep mentioning it. So I might put that on there? But it’s great, it’s shot with Super-8 just to a tee. The same exact camera that the Zapruder film was shot with.
Where did this take place? New Jersey?
Yeah, everything I do is in Jersey.
So who are you writing for these days?
I write for VICE, Bizarre, I write for a bunch of skateboard magazines, I’ve got two skate shops, trying to knock my wife up, trying to open up a third skate shop, I got the book, I got a screenplay that goes with the book, I’m working on a second book about the nightmare that it is making this book, and then I’m working on a parenting guide even though I don’t have any kids, and then I’m in talks about having the book turned into something else for cable.
So with regards to your career what do you think your defining moment has been?
Honestly, I think the defining moment is always when you die. Because that’s what everyone’s waiting for. And then you start to matter, and not a moment sooner.
A lot of your readers that have followed you since the beginning see you as a Hunter S. Thompson figure for our generation of writers. Has that ever dawned on you?
I really don’t even think about it to be honest. I’ve never thought about it until this very moment when you asked this question. Honestly man, I don’t look at any bigger picture, I hope that some day all these tapes of interviews and all these notebooks are found and someone enjoys them. But honestly, I just look at it as any of my friends who are electricians and construction workers. This is my trade, I know where to put the words; I don’t think it’s anything more than it is. It’s how I make money. I don’t dig ditches and I don’t splice wires. I just put words where they’re supposed to go and somebody gives me a check for it. I don’t look at it any grandiose way at all.
That sort of goes along with the dedication in the front of your book.
Yeah, those are the people that I relate to and maybe that’s who I write to? I don’t write in any elegant style or any large words. I write the way I talk. The way I talk is of the people that I grew up with and surround myself with. I’m not trying to get any literary award, but I am trying to get a handshake and a free beer from a lot of my friends saying, “That shit was funny, I enjoyed it. It made me laugh.”
How were you able to harness a lot of those stories, being that you were fucked up a lot of the time?
I don’t remember writing most of them. The thing is, if I told you I wrote this in one sitting or in one stretch, it’d be one thing, but umm…
Yeah, Skinema is a collection of stories from over the years.
It’s over the past eight years, and the only smart thing about my drug and alcohol abuse; the only thing that came smart about what I did, was that I was smart enough to take notes on it while I was in the midst of it. So those stories are all being written the next day while it’s still fresh. Because when I went on my honeymoon and had to re-read all these stories again after more than half a decade, I didn’t remember most of them. I was actually sickened by most of them. I was like, “God. This person is an asshole. The person who wrote this is a complete asshole.” And he is, or was. My wife was even sickened. She read the final book. I didn’t let her read the manuscript, I just told her to wait until the book came out because I didn’t want her to break up with me before we got married. So she just looked at me and said, “God, you’re a fucking slut.”
Would you say that you still have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in pornography today?
What new starlet would you say is name to look out for in the future? My personal favorite is Teagan Presley from Digital Underground.
Yeah, I interviewed her, she was fun. She was an acrobat and she told me that she could, if need be, do like a double somersault onto a penis in a movie. Who do I like now? Kimberly Kane and Joanna Angel, it’s like this new school of tattooed like…
Yeah, the Burning Angel Girls are rad.
Yeah, and Kimberly Kane’s on her own thing and she’s just rad. I’ve interviewed both of those girls, and they both have their own sensibility and it’s cool. They’re not vacant, they have opinions and they’re angry, and it’s fun.
With regards to Ronnie James Dio, how do I compare up to him height wise? I’m about 5’8 on a good day.
(We both stand up.)
I would say that you are an inch or two taller than Ronnie James Dio, but most certainly more muscular than him. And you’re not that big. So yeah, he’s a little fucker.
Of all the interviews you’ve done with musicians, is there one that sticks out in your mind?
The one that I always enjoy and I’ve probably told this story a million times, so I hate to waste your time, but the Big Pun; I really love that one. He hadn’t even made it big yet, he just released a single. I had seen him on a Beat Nuts track, but I just love Fat rappers. I have this affinity towards them. I had to interview this guy, and he was just fantastic. I had nothing but fat jokes and he had nothing but white jokes against me. It was great, but then it got weird because at the end I asked to take his photo and he’s like, “Sure.” Then he put a .9 mm pistol in my face.
Yeah, and I was like, “I was just kidding about all those fat jokes man.” And he was like, “Oh no, no. I just want a picture with me and my gun.” So he was just fully fucking with me.
About that Slayer editorial you contributed to IMPOSE #28 – I noticed that VBS is running “Do’s and Dont’s” video clips with Gavin and guest commentators. I saw the clip of you talking about the Slayer piece you wrote for us and I was wondering which came first, the “Do’s and Don’ts” clip, or the IMPOSE 500-word editorial?
I’m sorry that I did re-use that on you.
I thought it was rad to actually see you go over that memory with Gavin.
I wrote it for you first because it was a story that was near and dear to my heart; but with Gavin is how my reviews get written. It was a picture of a guy in a Slayer shirt, so I was like, “Well here’s my Slayer story.” It’s the exact same story in my own words. Not that it’s much different than the way I wrote it, because like I said, I write the way I speak. A lot of people on the road have been asking me, “Well is this true? And is this true?” And it’s like dude, the entire book is true. There might be some fishing stories in there where the twelve inch fish is more like a whale, the way I describe it. There’s a story on my slideshow that was pretty absurd. And when I showed it in Atlanta, it just so happened that the guy who was there filming that Fat Joe interview ten years ago was at the slideshow. And I hadn’t seen him in fucking ten years. And when I came on I said, “A lot of times people don’t believe these stories but this guy was here for this, what I just told you.” And the guy was like, “Yeah I can vouch for it.” I’m not a bullshit artist. I can spin a tale, but everything is based on my reality that has happened. It’s sad that it’s happened, its nothing that should be glamorized, it’s really pathetic that all of this has happened in my life already. Because it’s taken its toll on me.
At least you can look back and see that your healthy.
Yeah! I’m alive, I dunno about healthy but I’m alive.
So what exactly does your slide show presentation consist of?
Mmm, it’s just uhh… slides. Hi, lady.
(Female acquaintance of Chris’ walks up to where we are sitting and embraces him.)
This’ll be good.
This is my good friend Amy. And she can testify to a lot of the stories. She has seen me in those situations of just fucked-up-ed-ness. People doubt a lot of it. And I wish a lot of it was fake. The reality is that most of it is actual factual.
Does Chris Nieratko have a message for the children?
Yeah. Don’t get AIDS. And if you do, get rid of it as quick as you can.
For more of Chris Nieratko and info on where to buy Skinema visit chrisnieratko.com
PHOTO By Gordon Downs