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Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.

Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.

Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.

Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.

Emma Forrest, 2000


When Emma Forrest’s debut novel, Namedropper, arrived at index it got passed around like a hot piece of gossip. The book trails Viva Cohen, a clever, slightly neurotic London high-schooler, through Hollywood escape fantasies and friendships with various rock stars. It’s precocious, hilarious, and just a little bit autobiographical.
Emma got her start as a journalist. At 16 she was already writing for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and the NME. Eight years on, she still comes across as a teenaged, film-obsessed Roland Barthes. In Namedropper, Emma affords her readers a mythological breakdown on subjects like Los Angeles, Liz Taylor, and Oasis (to name a few) – all inside 256 pages of dishy and magnetic prose.
A recent transplant to New York, Emma has already befriended some of the brightest, most scandalous people in town — including one of our very own contributing photographers, Terry Richardson.

TERRY: What was your room like when you were growing up?
It was a juxtaposition of pictures of De La Soul and Cat Stevens — the first records I really loved as a teenager were De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising and my Mum’s copy of Teaser and the Firecat.

TERRY: What did you think about Cat Stevens becoming a Muslim?
I’ve thought about it a lot. And Cat Stevens wrote First Cut is the Deepest when he was in his early twenties. I think he was a certifiable genius, and once you’ve fulfilled your genius quota you have the right to do whatever you want. You become a fundamentalist Muslim like Cat Stevens, or you spend your life hanging out with vacuous socialites like Truman Capote did. But Capote is allowed to do that because by 21 he’d already written Other Voices, Other Rooms.

TERRY: Instead of dying or burning out, you completely change.
People forget how brilliant Elton John was before he fulfilled his genius quota, because then he came out of the closet and became a professional camp icon. It’s a terrible irony — before gay writers could live openly, their art was far more beautiful because it had so much more subtext. Tennessee Williams wasn’t camp — at least his art wasn’t. All that repression went into Suddenly Last Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

TERRY: Why do you like Elizabeth Taylor so much?
Lots of reasons. She said she never took her clothes off in a movie because once you’ve taken them off there’s nothing left to do but put them back on again. That’s influenced my behavior in real life. And she’s the only one who survived from that era. Natalie Wood, James Dean, Marilyn, Montgomery Clift, Ava — they all died young. But Liz is going to live forever.

TERRY: Anything else?
Well, she truly believed it was going to work out when she got married for the seventh time to a construction worker she met in rehab.

TERRY: So she believed in true love?
Definitely. She says she never slept with anyone she didn’t end up marrying. So if she’s only had sex with seven people, that’s not a lot.

TERRY: They used to dress her up so perfectly.
The outfits they put her in were so erotic — she had that perfect hourglass shape. The dresses were tight, but they were high-necked and low-hemmed. In reality, she was a frigid sex bomb.
TERRY: What’s your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie?
EMMA: I think A Place in the Sun.

There aren’t really any stars anymore. Back then they were larger than life. They didn’t get caught at the supermarket in their sweat pants. Can you think of any star now who has that old glamour?
Angelina Jolie!

TERRY: That’s broken glamour.
No, that’s not true. Because she doesn’t have female craziness, that Blanche DuBois, Frances Farmer frailty. Angelina’s madness is a very masculine, blow-the-whole-joint-up lunacy. She’s not like any other actress; she’s really most like Marlon Brando. Actually, she’s better than Marlon Brando. I find a lot of his work quite mannered.

TERRY: What’s your favorite Angelina film?

TERRY: Of course. That’s brilliant.
I love the scene where she’s famous and successful but she’s begging her mother not to leave her alone. She’s crying and crying, and suddenly she snaps and goes from being a baby to screaming, “Fine, fuck you! Fuck off! Get out of my house!”

TERRY: What was the last dream you had?
I dreamt that my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend told me that a witch was coming to kill me and if I didn’t hide under the sofa we would all die. I said I didn’t believe them and I didn’t want to hide, but they made me. Then the witch arrived and it was Diana Ross. She sat on the sofa and squashed me, and I thought, fuck this. I climbed out and told her that they said she wanted to kill me. Diana smiled and said, “I am not going to kill you. I’m just going to steal your jewelry.”

TERRY: What do you think that means?
I don’t know. His new girlfriend was my roommate.

TERRY: And you’re okay with that?
It would never have worked out with me and him, so who he ends up with is irrelevant. I would try very hard never to lose a friend over a man. I hate it when you turn on Jerry Springer and there are two girls who look like Naomi Campbell fighting over one man who looks like an artichoke.

TERRY: Are your parents still together?
EMMA: Yep. They live in Chiswick, West London.

TERRY: But your Mom’s a New Yorker?
Yeah. So I grew up in England, but I have U.S. citizenship.

TERRY: What do you think of Americans who cultivate an English accent? The other day I met a girl in New York who said she had a British accent because she’d lived in England. I asked her how long, and she said, “Three months.”
Well, that’s a great American cinematic tradition. Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly have fake British accents, and I don’t like either of them. They’re both like photocopies of women — women once removed. I’d be much more freaked out by a man who was obsessed with Grace Kelly than a man who was obsessed with Pamela Anderson.

TERRY: What was your most traumatic childhood experience?
Probably anti-Semitism at school. England is so racist. My sister and I had scholarships to a school where there were no black kids — unless they were the children of diplomats — and no Jews. I remember coming home when I was little, crying because the kids with blonde hair and tiny little noses said I had a horrible Jew nose and was ugly. My Mum told me about Anjelica Huston and how she wasn’t blonde and didn’t have a little nose but everyone thought she was beautiful. So I always liked her.

TERRY: You know my dad left my mother for Anjelica?
I know.

TERRY: There’s a whole other story.
So I stopped trying to be friends with kids and became friends with adults instead. My two best friends in England are both mothers; one is in her mid—thirties, the other’s in her forties.
TERRY: How old are you?

23. I met one of them when I was 15, and a few months later she left her husband. I met the other friend when I was 17, and six months later she left the father of her child. Either I’m poisonous or inspirational.

TERRY: How about you and relationships? Have you ever been in love?

TERRY: How do you know?
Because I got good writing out of it. Love is just a facilitator for art. Maybe I’ll really fall in love and won’t feel that anymore.

TERRY: I read Namedropper in one sitting. I really, really liked it.
That’s funny. Girls love it, gay men love it, but you’re the first straight man to tell me he really liked it.

TERRY: How do you know I’m straight?
Word gets around.

TERRY: When I read it I totally pictured you as the narrator. Is it based on you?
To some degree. I’ve taken my experiences and strained them through my imagination, like an actor would.

TERRY: How long did it take you to write?
I talked about it for five years, and it took me five months to write when I actually shut up.
(Emma puts on The Kinks)

TERRY: This is one of my all—time favorite bands.
I know. They’re a very unusual band because they’re melancholy without ever becoming self-pitying. They’re not sad about themselves, they’re sad about other things passing by. And, they were the first English heritage band.

TERRY: You’re so smart, Emma.
But I’m also really, really dumb. I can’t work a washing machine or close an ironing board. My little sister is a bona fide genius who could speak Russian at 13 and writes feminist essays about Jane Eyre — but she can’t work things either. I just saw an ad for this new Disney movie. It said, “It takes you to the edge of excitement. And beyond!” That sounds like it goes past excitement and back ‘round again into boredom. That’s the kind of intelligence I have — the kind that becomes stupidity.

TERRY: But you’re so young and you’ve gotten your career together so quickly. I didn’t even start taking pictures until I was 27.
You probably had several talents. But I’m useless at everything except writing. I started doing it so young. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t make me feel useless — when I’m writing I haven’t got time to dislike myself.

TERRY: What contemporary writers do you like?
I love Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club, but his best book is Survivor. He’s like the Dalai Kurt Vonnegut.

TERRY: Bazaar compared you to Salinger. Do you like him?
I understand how important he was, but I find him a little cutesy.

TERRY: Well then, name three geniuses.
Truman Capote, Thelonious Monk, and Cher.

TERRY: Right on!
Cher: great actress, great singer, great style. And she has the only good nose job I’ve ever seen, because she made them keep the bump. I woke up one day last year, very, very manic and decided I wanted a nose job there and then. And I wanted my nose to be thinner, but I wanted them to make the bump bigger so I could look like Nicolas Cage. But the surgeon I went to see said he was not in the business of making bumps bigger. So I went off the idea.

TERRY: Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl is so cool.
There’s another example of someone who fulfilled his genius quota and earned the right to change completely and turn all Action Man.

TERRY: Tell me about your Bruce Springsteen obsession.
It’s not an obsession. It’s just an honest emotional response. His songs make me cry and want to be a better person. I love his imagery. I love his politics. He’s an icon of the Reagan era, but every album he’s ever written espouses socialism. I hold him way above Dylan as a lyricist. Bruce writes so well about women, but Dylan is a misogynist in the true sense of the word: he doesn’t hate women, he fears them.

TERRY: I just saw a documentary about Ramblin’ Jack Elliot that implies Dylan really took his schtick. Dylan kind of looked at what was going on, took a few bits from a few different people, and then did his own interpretation and surpassed them.
I believe it, but I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. Steal, but steal from the best sources.

TERRY: Namedropper seems quite personal. Does it make you feel exposed?
No, because I haven’t read it in a while. People are always quoting it to me, and I think, “That’s a good line. I’ll steal that.” And then I realize, I wrote it.

© index magazine
Emma Forrest by Terry Richardson, 2000
© index magazineEmma Forrest by Terry Richardson, 2000
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