The Most Interesting Man in the World (Exclusive Interview)
On entering the Hotel Congress in Tucson, The Most Interesting Man in the World appraised me before sitting opposite my tooled red leather couch. I had ordered a carafe of Sangria, and without speaking the Man took one of the glasses beside it and poured himself three fingers. His rugged face bore several faint scars, aged under many seasons of tan. Yet he regarded me with hopeful insouciance, well aware that he could always retreat with a final, rising gulp. . . and then that withering trace of a world-weary smile. Sensing this, I said nothing. I only nodded, lifting my glass in salute. Then, after a first sip he said, “Did you know that the last frontier of science is the understanding of human consciousness?” When I still didn’t respond, he added, “Most people, however, are neither conscious nor curious, alas.”
“And you?” I ventured.
“I do not own a television,” he replied.
Thus began the most unusual and surprising interview I’d ever conducted. For here was a Man willing to live life to the fullest. A man who’d traveled to over a hundred countries, and mastered many languages. A man I soon learned had lost a son in a mountain climbing accident on the south island of New Zealand. Born on the “white rice and fat back” side of the tracks in Kansas City, the Man confessed that he’d left home early to ride the rails, then earned his grits as a riverboat roustabout on the Mississippi. Next came the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, and a string of jobs as diver for oceanographic expeditions, salvage operations, treasure hunts. Before I’d even remembered to turn on my recorder, the Man had already described earning his stake as an unpaid volunteer searching for the only shipwreck left boasting a belly of gold—a Spanish galleon that had failed to skirt a crosshatch pattern of shallow reefs during a Caribbean hurricane in 1537. With the meager percentage he’d pocketed (after the legal dust settled), the Man had invested—as venture capital—in a diamond mine project in the Kimberley, and immediately struck into a cache of large, raw blue stones. Selling his shares upon their brief yet sharp spike in value, he then bought into bauxite, and with stable, lifelong earnings virtually guaranteed from Alcoa, embarked on adventure after adventure across the globe, excavating dinosaur fossils in China, tracking down fugitive gun runners in Sicily, and installing fiber optic cable into newly erected schools in rural India and Brazil. He did not merely give money to charity, and then slump back onto some couch. No. The Man does not even own a couch, although there is a condo in Dubai with a sleek ergonomic chair, and with a dresser and platform bed facing the slowing rotating outer glass wall, which tracks and adjusts to the glare of the Middle Eastern sun. There is also his hunter green Porsche 911, which shares the room with him, as does the occasional female guest. But the Man is rarely there, and instead prefers the private jets of those billionaires whose ideas (rather than their parents) have made them rich. They in turn enjoy his candor, his intuitive insight, his integrity and bottomless fascination with innovation, mystery, and discovery. Steve Jobs, I soon learned, was one of those men.
So it was that I felt a sense of awe, knowing the myths inspired by the Man, which I now saw were even less impressive than the reality. It was as though some hidden wonder-lust, burning in his soul, permeated his pores to affect those he meets. In short, one did not want to disappoint the Man, for fear that he might leave and be replaced by someone less fascinating. Someone without any original thoughts to express. Some airhead celebrity who appeared on TV talk shows, and said things like, “I’ve always wanted to work with him,” or “I would really love to direct.”
Reminded of the job I had to do, I deferred at last to my listed questions, engaged my pocket recorder, and continued by ear. Here is an excerpt from that exchange:
Q: How did you acquire the moniker “World’s Most Interesting Man,” and are you really the inspiration for the beer ads?
A: Someone high in the circus remembered me after the fictional ads had run a while. Thought I looked like the guy, too. Asked if I was game for an interview, called your editor. Here we are.
Q: Same hotel where they found John Dillinger?
A: Yes, but I’m not looking for publicity. I’m no public enemy, either.
Q: Then why. . .
A: A few friends, also nameless, thought it might be culturally instructive for me to emerge from the closet.
Q: How so? Do you mean–
A: No, I’m not gay. I am contented, though. Euphoric, even. For reasons many might not understand.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Being happy has nothing to do with what you own, or who you impersonate. It’s about embracing the new, becoming who you can be.
Q: Who are you, then? What’s your given name?
A: My name does not matter. What is merely given to you matters even less.
Q: So what matters, then?
A: Seeing the connections between the near and the far. The vast and the tiny. The past and the future.
Q: Are you more of a thrill seeker or a Buddhist, then, would you say?
A: I live in the present because there is no other reality. And once you grasp that, fear goes away. And you turn off your television.
Q: How did you come by this philosophy?
A: By paying attention. By being here.
Q: Instead of being bored?
(The Man nods approval)
A: The bored have no imagination, my friend. Or a limited supply. If you’re alive, you’re alive everywhere, at all times. You don’t have a short attention span. On the other hand, if you’re dead, or nearly so, the opposite is true.
Q: There was a quote used in the ads. “Stay thirsty, my friends.” Is that your advice, too?
A: If you’re thirsty, you must be alive. True?
Q: True. Are you a sporting man?
A: Yes, but I prefer my own sports, my own goal lines. How sad is a life lived compulsively, repetitively. Why not take another path? Become part of something strange and wonderful. An evolution, a revolution. Think bigger, and smaller, and deeper. Do what hasn’t been done. Go where no one has gone. The universe is larger than a baseball diamond or record book, my friend.
Q: This is beginning to sound. . . inspirational. Is that why you’ve surfaced?
(The Man laughs)
A: Surfaced? The question presumes that up is the only direction to go. That bigger is always better. It is neither the only nor always the best way. Is an H bomb better than the A bomb?
Q: Do you follow politics? We’re at Hotel Congress, so I suppose I should ask what do you think of Congress itself?
A: I think they need to be thirsty again, instead of bloated and tipsy. I think they are fat drunkards stumbling around in the dark, from party to Tea party.
Q: So maybe they should drink the Kool Aid instead. Term limits?
At this question, the Man simply leaned back, smiling in approval at me. Appraising me anew. And I felt a rush like exhilaration at his gaze. As if the luck he lured by his magnetism were being conveyed to me too, somehow. I knew it was true because when he left, there was no thin, knowing smile, no world-weary shrug that he might have given a reporter from Entertainment Tonight. He simply nodded once, and walked away. . . And at the door a beautiful yet strangely familiar woman joined him, and I suddenly realized that she’d been waiting for him, unnoticed. After they left, it occurred to me that she’d looked like a woman in the ads, too. A supermodel with a super I.Q.? How had I not noticed? Here had been a Man who could make a Supermodel disappear. . . who could make KIM KARDASHIAN disappear! A shiver went through me, as I found that I smiled too. . .
Posted on January 2, 2012, in Interviews and tagged arizona, entertainment tonight, hotel congress, kim kardashian, politics, sports, steve jobs, supermodels, television, the world's most interesting man, tucson, tucson weekly. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.