‘Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends’

That, in case you don’t know, is a Waiticism – a quote by the legendarily quotable singer-songwriter Tom Waits. Like many of Waits’ lines I’ve used it at numerous society events and apologise now for giving anyone the impression that I’d invented it myself. I did, however, coin the phrase Waiticism. It’s not one I’m particularly proud of.

I picked up Friday’s Independent because it had an interview with Waits. It turns out I’d already read it on his record label’s website, but that didn’t stop me from reading it again. Like his recent press conference, it plays fast and loose with the traditional rules of the interview format. For one thing, he asks himself the questions.

Needless to say, it’s full of sublime wit and is tremendously entertaining:


Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: The director Jim Jarmusch once told me, “Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two. If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap.” Fast, cheap and good… pick two words to live by.


Q: What do you wonder about?


1. Do bullets know whom they are intended for?
2. Is there a plug in the bottom of the ocean?
3. What do jockeys say to their horses?
4. How does a newspaper feel about winding up papiermâché?
5. How does it feel to be a tree by a freeway?
6. Sometimes a violin sounds like a Siamese cat; the first violin strings were made from catgut – any connection?
7. When is the world going to rear up and scrape us off its back?
8. Will we humans eventually intermarry with robots?
9. Is a diamond just a piece of coal with patience?
10. Did Ella Fitzgerald really break that wine glass with her voice?

My favourite bit, though, isn’t actually a Waiticism as such. Rather, it’s his favourite quote from the architect, designer, futurist and all-round polymath that was R. Buckminster Fuller. To wit:

“Fire is the sun unwinding itself from the wood.”

That, my friends, is poetry. I’ve been a big fan of Bucky Fuller since discovering his work and theories via the late, great Robert Anton Wilson. I didn’t realise until this interview that Waits’ was a fan, too. I like it when that happens.

Anyhow, there’s more good stuff about the interview here.