Michael Musto: Dish Warmed Over
BY Brandon Voss
September 07 2011 3:00 AM ET
Since 1984, shrewd and self-deprecating humorist Michael Musto has written his La Dolce Musto column for New York’s Village Voice, tirelessly chronicling nightlife and celebrity culture both highbrow and low-rent. [Update: Musto was axed in 2013 and is now a columnist for Out.] As he celebrates the release of his new book Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back, his second collection of classic columns, the bridge-burning blogger and baron of blind items blabs about his hard-earned position as both historian and spokesman for the gay community.
The Advocate: Kudos on a terrific title. What’s the story there?
Michael Musto: There was a cater waiter at Robin Byrd’s house on Fire Island who once told me that the motto of the Pines is “fork on the left, knife in the back, spoon up the nose, dish, dish, dish.” I thought it would be too unwieldy to run the whole thing, so I just went for the first half.
In the book’s introduction you explain and defend your longtime love of gossip. I’ve read that you prefer the term gossip columnist, but that’s not really an accurate job title anymore, is it? You review film and theater, you interview celebrities, you’re a pop culture pundit, and so much more. Does being a gossip columnist somehow trump everything else?
Well, growing up, I never imagined I could ever be called a gossip columnist, so it seemed like the most exalted thing to be, even though other people in the gossip field saw it as a comedown, because they wanted to be seen as cultural anthropologists or something. The reality is that I’m basically a humorist who just happens to write about gossip and entertainment. But I don’t mind any label, as long as people spell my name right.
Do the columns collected in Fork on the Left differ in theme or tone from those in your 2007 collection, La Dolce Musto — or are they just the columns that weren’t quite good enough to make the cut for the first book?
Actually, in digging deeper, I found way better ones than were in the first book. I went for some of the more obvious things that stood out in my mind for the first book, but when you really read through literally 1,300-plus columns, you start to find some hidden gems. The running theme is more current than the last collection, because I have a lot more columns from the last 10 years. Also, the last collection had nothing original, and in the new one I have four original essays: I did something on the allure of blind items, the celebrity glass closet, blogging, and the social networking generation.
How have your columns evolved in terms of what you cover or how you cover it?
My tone in general has stayed the same. Once I found my voice, I pretty much stuck with it. But I find I’ve perhaps developed a little more compassion over the years. When I started out, I wanted to make more of a splash and have people notice me, so I raged against everything. Gradually, I became more willing to show my appreciation of certain celebrities, because deep down I do worship celebrities. If I didn’t, I couldn’t do what I do all these years.