WH0: Comedian Andrew Dice Clay.
WHAT: Signing his new memoir, "The Filthy Truth."
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday. WHERE: Bookends, 211 E Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood, 201-445-0726, book-ends.com.
HOW MUCH: Signing is free with purchase of the book from Bookends ($26.99).
To all you chicks out there — and you know who you are — who hated Andrew Dice Clay's womanizing, headboard-slamming guts back in the 1980s: It is time to reconsider.
Could it be that behind the leather jacket and the sunglasses, behind the smoldering Marlboro dangling from his filthy mouth, behind all the swagger and hateful comments … you actually missed out on a real catch?
"I am a very different man, than the man on stage," says Clay, born Andrew Clay Silverstein.
"I do love leather jackets. I do smoke cigarettes," he adds in his thick Brooklyn accent, as recognizable as ever. As for the other, less savory aspects of the thug he inhabited as a stand-up filling arenas across the country – a sort of Archie Bunker meets Tony Manaro meets Danny Zuko — he says: "Do I know those kinds of guys? Yes. Am I making fun of those guys? Yes. Do I think it's stupid? Yes!"
His new memoir, "The Filthy Truth," which he will be promoting Tuesday on the day of its release with a book-signing appearance at Bookends in Ridgewood, attempts to reveal the Clay divested of his black leather coat of armor. It's a semi-softer, semi-gentler side of the comedian, for sure, especially the chapters lovingly written about his close relationship to his parents during his rise to fame, and his equally close relationship to his two sons, today.
But make no mistake. What the book feels like mostly is the portrait of a very determined, self-possessed man on a mission from the moment he first knew he could make an audience belly laugh. Ultimately, it becomes the quintessential survivor's story. In a weird sort of way, Clay's life and career is much like that of the late Joan Rivers. Both had the same sort of drive, work ethic, thrilling rise and crushing fall. But by all means, they kept their noses down and pressed ahead no matter what got thrown at them.
The haters of the world who ultimately brought him down, if not out, may very well be redirecting their own self-hatred at what is way too easy of a target, Clay says during a recent phone interview. The character he has played all these years is way too much of a caricature for anyone to take too seriously, he says. "There are some people who just don't like to look in the mirror, at themselves. They don't want to see themselves for who they really are. I never had that problem. I've always known who I am, as a husband, as a father, and as a performer."
Clay was raised in Brooklyn and rose to fame as the king of raunchiness in the 1980s. He was the only comedian to sell out more than 300 sports arenas nationwide, and the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row. Clay has opened for Guns 'N Roses before a crowd of 100,000 at the Rose Bowl.
But a turbulent backlash eventually ensued among media, critics and even some celebs. His scheduled appearance to host "Saturday Night Live" in 1990 triggered cast member Nora Dunn to refuse to appear on that week's show, in protest of what she viewed as Clay's chauvinistic and homophobic act. Death threats aimed at the producers of his soon-to-be opened movie that same year, "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane," prompted a last-minute yanking of its promotion and buyout of Clay's contract to make two sequels. It was all downhill from there.
Clay resents the assumption that he was a wash-up, at that point. He continued to tour large arenas and smaller venues (smaller as in 4,000 people or so – still large) until, around the mid-'90s, he stopped. "I was just completely burned out from doing so many shows. It was taking a toll on my body. It's one thing to have thousands of people screaming at you, and that going through your system, but…." He trails off, sounding fatigued just thinking about it. Personal problems, mainly a messy divorce that left him with two young sons to raise, made him decide to stay out of the spotlight for a while.
Now, he's back, selling out theaters and casinos and fresh on the heels of an unexpectedly well-received dramatic role in Woody Allan's critically acclaimed film "Blue Jasmine" starring Cate Blanchett. "I couldn't believe it. Honestly, I just couldn't believe it," he says of the critics' kindness. "And I hadn't done a movie in 12 years." He explained that Woody Allan offered him the role after being impressed with his series of appearances playing a role written for him by the creator of the HBO series "Entourage."
Clay's acting abilities seem to be more a matter of instinct, than craft. He never had any formal acting training, and says "talent" can't be taught by even the greatest acting teacher. "I believe that if you've got it, you've got it. And if you don't, you don't."
Clay is set to appear in a still-to-be-released Martin Scorsese film and has a Fox comedy series in the works. Meanwhile, he recently returned from a tour of Australia, performing some new comedy material and hopes he still may get to play MSG again, some day. For those who are Andrew Dice Clay purists, not to worry – he hasn't exactly cleaned up his act. Maybe, he's just grown up a little.
"It went excellent," he said of the Australian tour. "My performance style is a little different. The material is obviously updated. I have always talked about sexual behavior. But now I talk about the new generation and where it's going and how people are about it, today. It's still over-the-top. It's still a cartoonish. I'm still just showing people who they are as themselves, in a funny, cartoonish kind of way."