Two Writers in Starbucks Getting Coffee: Roger Rosenblatt Interviews Dan

Roger Rosenblatt interviewing Dan Rattiner, Photo: Barbara Lassen
Roger Rosenblatt interviewing Dan Rattiner, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Dan Rattiner has interviewed thousands of people over the years, but he’s never been interviewed in the pages of the paper he founded. It feels like the right time to rectify that, and Roger Rosenblatt—Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook Southampton, award- winning essayist, novelist and playwright—feels like the perfect interviewer.

Roger Rosenblatt: How did you, of all people, come up with an idea as brilliant as Dan’s Papers? Give the paper away free, overcharge for the ads. Was it your brainstorm, or had it been done before?

Dan Rattiner: It had never been done before as far as I knew. Dan’s Papers wasn’t worth even five cents. But people paid a lot to be in it.

RR: Since you have become the William Randolph Hearst of the East End, who would you like to play you in the inevitable film, Citizen Dan? (Sorry. Bobcat Goldthwait is no longer available.) And what totemic item would you long for from your childhood? A surfboard? Roseboard?

DR: I’d like Alec Baldwin to play me. He has the same sweet personality with occasional icy outbursts and throwing things and stamping around and weeping when necessary, as I do. My totemic item? What?

RR: Two-part question: a) Do you sleep in your hat? b) Who cares?

DR: I usually don’t sleep in my hat. It’s a rule. But sometimes I am just so tired that when I get into my pajamas, I simply cannot get up the strength to pull the hat off the top of my head and so give up, sigh, and sleep with it on. When that happens, I usually awaken in the morning with a stiff neck. Who cares? I most certainly care.

RR: If you were to create your own perfect Hamptons village, who would constitute the population (dead or alive or in between)? Do not feel shy to begin with me.

DR: I certainly would begin with you. Indeed, I have already made a clay model of you and the others I wish to have in my perfect miniature Hamptons village, and they are ready for me some time soon to make clay models of all the churches, saltboxes and windmills that would replicate my perfect Hamptons village, so I could place them casually around in order that they be able to frolic and play the banjo with one another. I don’t have to tell you the names of these other people. You will know soon enough. And you will like them. They are great conversationalists, all, though with high, squeaky voices and very small.

RR: I’ve never heard you comment on the natural beauty of this area. Have you noticed the natural beauty of this area?

DR: This dump? What are you talking about?

RR: With some well-known people, it is easy to picture them as children. With you, it’s impossible. Were you a child? If so, what kind?

DR: I was a little boy. I didn’t have a beard back then, nor a hat, but I did have a long tail that caused me great shame and embarrassment, as my playmates treated me so unmercifully, stomping on it and chasing me down the street to my home with my tail wiggling behind. It was awful.

RR: Do you have an intellectual life? (Again, impossible to picture.) Do you go to concerts? Art shows? Museums? The opera? The ballet? Do you read the classics? Do you study Kierkegaard, Hildegard, Skarsgard?

DR: Of course I have an intellectual life. My life reeks of intellectualism. It shows up in everything I do. How dare you suggest I don’t have an intellectual life. I know all the “gaards” and “gards” and even a few “gaaards.” More than you, even.

RR: Speaking of baseball…During the ’50s, when the Yankees justifiably reigned supreme in New York, you were a Dodgers fan. Why? Did you continue to be a Dodgers fan, after they moved to L.A.? Do you know they moved to L.A.?

DR: I want to explain this in great detail, seriously. I was born in Brooklyn, so, like my dad, I rooted for Brooklyn. I was a big fan of Snider, Reese, Furillo, Hodges, Campanella, Robinson and all the rest of them. It broke my heart when they moved. They had been such a great team, amongst all the teams, second only to the Yankees, over and over and over again. I didn’t know where they went, only that they had gone away.

The Mets came along and I tried rooting for them, but, truly, they are just so awful. It wasn’t fair. It isn’t fair. I am left only to root, every day since 1957 when the Dodgers left, for every team that plays against the New York Yankees. God bless them all. And this is the truth. Someone once asked me to name the two worst people who ever lived. I can tell you. Adolph Hitler. And Walter O’Malley, the man who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn. I hope some day he dies.

RR: Bonus Question—Do you have any idea of how much you’ve given this community over the many years, by providing a publication that serves as focal point for political and cultural discussion, a meeting ground for light and heavy matters, and, week in and out, the area’s best and liveliest center of attraction? This is a rhetorical question. You don’t need to answer.

DR: Oh.

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