F/M/K: Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty
Julie: Where do we start, Natasha?? How do we begin? There is no origin story for this triad, there is only legend as it has always existed: a solstice, a sword in a stone, a shadow on concrete getting longer, shifting its angle but always there, every day, from when you could first notice shapes that bodies made on the ground when they were lit by the sun.
Three kings, as it goes this time of year, are under consideration, and all three are mighty, formidable, ‘70s men of the revolution.
I’ll start with Jack Nicholson, and OF COURSE I would fuck him. Any era, any age, any weight, even with Bucket List hair. What am I, stupid?
Look, I could sit here, on my cat’s favorite chair with my laptop on a throw pillow between my legs and tippity type onto my dumb-dumb screen that “I’d marry Jack Nicholson.” But what exactly would that do, besides advertise to the internet that I’m every bit as out of touch with reality as Second Lifers? Fantasy footballers? World of Warcraft players? Is that still a thing? Don’t tell me, please — I’m begging you, stop moving your lips.
Where in any narcissistic psychotic construction of reality could I posit, even hypothetically, that I’d be the one who’d get Jack to marry her? That I’d be more successful at the impossible than Anjelica Huston? I’d be dumb to try. It’s like when parents, two generations ago, knew to discourage their children from foolhardy career aspirations. They were fresh enough off the boat to force Jacob Jr. to learn a trade instead of encouraging him to pursue his all-consuming love of dance. And it served Jake well into his future to know what stars he shouldn’t have bothered to extend an elegant, Black Swan wing toward. It’s the same way with Jack. You can’t marry him, so there’s no point wanting to.
But you don’t really want to marry him. If you think you do, you’re due for a long, serious heart-to-heart with your brain and your vagina to make sure one isn’t making the other stupid, or sick with vertigo. Because all of what Nicholson represents — when he’s not acting like Daddy, because I know that can be confusing, Brainpussy — signifies kinetic, maniacal, deviant, and revolutionary genius. And that is all stuff you put between your legs, not into your Crate & Barrel registry fantasies. Admittedly, sometimes that star stuff gets past your cervix and into your brain stem to rot it from the inside out with dirty magic fungus, but by then your girlfriends have ideally intervened and deleted his number from your phone — so, it almost doesn’t matter.
Jack is a paragon; a pentagram. His backhanded role in Hollywood mythology is that of the GREAT FRIEND, which is something you say about men who are always there for other men — in this case, other legends/villains. When Robert Evans needed his house back. When Brando died. When Roman needed a place to rape that girl.
Men are the ones, including his Beatty-Friend-Foreves, to whom he is still, and always will be, available. Come by, he’ll tell you about dropping acid with the Monkees. He’s got all kinds of stories about Roger Corman. Do you want to know the one about how he thought his mom was his sister and his grandparents were his parents, until they all died and he finally got set straight? Or maybe you’d like to know who his real father is. Well, that makes one of you, because Jack doesn’t give a FUCK.
Nicholson is such an iconic avalanche, such a menacing, Dionysian pillar of familiarity and status that even his ripoffs have grown into elders. Christian Slater? Sure, fine. James Spader? Sort of? Also, fine. More than fine — great. The guy from high school you still have dreams about boning while your boyfriend is out of town, because even your subconscious is a guilty pile of garbage? He too owes the semiotics of his eyebrows to Jack’s, and he didn’t even play the astronaut who showed up at the hotel for Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment. Jack is paid to pretend to be the Guy Who Shows Up. The Man who Wants to Be a Better Man. But in real life, he still has the luxury of being the dissipating legend who does what he likes.
There is Mick Jaggerness in Jack — a rock star essence that, compounded with electrocuting charisma and the ability to play different shades of dark, is actually poisonous. There was something bizarrely on the nose about his role in The Departed — all open robes and dildo brandish. That’s who Nicholson is. Not a very subtle character — half cranky veteran and half unbridled kid with a viper in his open boxers. Baby New Year and Father Time all in one, with the untethered new values of the sexual revolution coursing through his veins along with the untrappable, undefineable markings of whatever cool has always meant and always will mean.
He’s the man you ride while you can, and get your asshole bleached for. You enjoy his stories and pretend you’re one of his guy friends, or the girl who can hang with those, as though there has ever been one who blends successfully or proves herself an exception. But you never, ever, count on Jack to be around for any longer than it takes for you to be left wanting more, handling the truth — this guy was never yours, and never could be. He’s never been yours. He’s barely just learned to be his own. So forget it, girl. It’s Chinatown.
Let’s move onto Dustin Hoffman, because I’m about to make my Jewish parents very happy. I would marry Dustin Hoffman, and it’s not just because he is a Jew. It is because he is THE JEW.