EPISODE 11 (2004 – 2007)
Harrison Ford’s environmental activism makes up for that time he was mean
How does Alfia the beloved office dog connect to the Daily Show? What does that have to do with abandoned MBTA tunnels and their potentially lethal third rails? And how could any of this influence your perspective on where Let’s Dance ranks amongst David Bowie’s discography? Gentle readers, the answer to all of these questions is the Weekly MFin’ Dig of yore.
AMANDA NICHOLSON (office manager): I loved Alfia. She was one of our salespeople’s dog. She would sit in front of the office door while [her human] was out on calls, staring at the door, waiting for [her human] to come back. For a while, people were feeding her treats so often that she had to go on a diet.
JULIA REISCHEL (staff writer): [Alfia’s human] was also a drug dealer, and Alfia was this lovely boxer dog who would just haunt the floor of the Dig looking at everyone mournfully and only looked at [her human] with absolute admiration. [Her human] was inscrutable, often banged up with bruises on [their] face. I’d ask, “What the fuck happened to you?” And [the owner] was like, “Eh, I fell.” Alfia was this pure soul who loved [her human] for [their] true worth.
NICHOLSON: [Alfia’s human] probably could’ve put [their] talents to better use than, um, y’know, being at the Dig and this other side business. I’m pretty sure I sent things in the mail that I really shouldn’t have.
REISCHEL: I had been an intern for a couple of months, and I finally asked the managing editor at the time, “How do you write a thing? ’Cos that’s why I’m here.” He said I had to go talk to [Joe] Keohane [EiC], which was very frightening. So I tried to think of some exciting article ideas to pitch him, and I eventually settled on a story about sneaking into abandoned subway tunnels, which is risking your life ’cos of the electrified third rail. Joe goes, “The photographer will meet you in Harvard Square at this time! Go forth and report!” Derek [Kouyoumjian] was this punk [as in “punk rocker”] with this huge camera. We met on the subway platform where I informed him of my half-baked plan, which was to run into the tunnel when no one was looking. We did that, and at one point I had to yell, “Derek don’t step on that!” He literally came within a few feet of stepping on the third rail ’cos of course the man’s attitude is, “Sure! I’ll run into an abandoned subway tunnel for a freelancer I just met! No problem!”
LISSA HARRIS (managing editor): So around 2005, right before they hired me full time, I picked up the first issue after the redesign and there’s a huge feature in there about urban exploration in the old MBTA tunnels, and I read this feature and said, “Fucking shit! This is good! They replaced me! They have a new one!”
REISCHEL: Joe was like, “You really have to meet Lissa Harris. She wears these fur coats and gets hilariously drunk! You have to meet her!” The first time we actually met was the first day she became managing editor. She was sitting in a staff meeting and thought I was still an intern, and finally Shaula’s like, “Hey, Lissa, this is Julia.” Lissa immediately stopped ignoring me and said, “Oh! I know your byline!” So that transparent elitism was my first impression of her. Later, I remember running around trying to spank her at some Dig party. It all seemed completely platonic to me at the time. Now, Joe Keohane is the godfather of our kid, as a nod to the fact that he introduced us.
BARATUNDE THURSTON (contributor, eventual supervising producer of the Daily Show): I had been writing under a pseudonym for the Jack and Jill Politics blog. Something I wrote got a lot of responses, and Joe Keohane was one of those responses. He said, “It sounds like you’re in Boston. I like your writing. You’re the greatest person I’ve ever known.” My recollections are vague, but it was something like that. He asked if I wanted to do something with the Dig under my real name. And so that was The Year in Racism review back in September of ’06.
DAVID WILDMAN (arts editor): My favorite feature interview, if you’re wondering, was David Bowie. There was just this feeling of … like, he earnestly wanted to talk to me. So I unloaded all my feelings about his various records, and he was just glad to hear them. He had some interesting things to say, like how much he hated Let’s Dance. It was just hit single after hit single and he just kind of got sick of it.
REISCHEL: This MIT student died in a very compromising position in an artist’s loft. And the Herald was really … they sort of picked up on the sexual squeamishness of the situation. He died while encased in rubber, and clearly in the middle of a sex act. So they wrote all this salacious stuff where a hamster had been removed from the apartment, and how clearly the hamster had been involved in the sex act in some way. I ended up exhuming this whole other side of this guy. He was a very charismatic drug maker who made these designer drugs and threw these really hedonist parties at his loft, but he was also very into drug safety and responsibility in that libertarian type of way. I basically begged his friends, who were incredibly paranoid after all the bad press, to talk to me and to trust me, and they only did that because of what the Dig was like. You never knew what the Dig was going to do, but you knew it probably wasn’t going to do the same thing the Herald did.
THURSTON: It’s fair to say that was my first big paid writing break, and a significant step in my overall career. To have a licensed wordsmith say, “You’re good with words. I want to pay you to do other things with words” … that’s a huge break.
WILDMAN: Harrison Ford was my worst interview. He was promoting a movie everybody knew was a piece of crap—that Firewall movie, which was just a ripoff of 24. He has to make movies like that, I guess, but he also has to go out and promote them, and he just hated that. I tried to engage him on something, anything, aside from the movie, and he didn’t want to do it. His attitude was, “Ask me about the movie, let’s just get out of here.” So I asked him stuff way out on a limb, and eventually I got him pissed off. I asked him why he hadn’t played any villainous characters, and he said, “I was in K-19.” I thought he said “canine,” and asked, “Is that a movie about a dog?”
Coming Up: The Dig spends all its money on glossy covers everyone hates.