probably get lots of e-mails from hopefuls wanting to become
advice columnists, but I thought I would ask anyway: How does
one become a successful advice columnist? I believe that I
have something to offer. I give advice to friends and family,
and I’m sure that there are many other people out there who
would benefit from my advice. I am not interested in simply
spouting my opinions: I am interested in helping people. Any
suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!
get to your question in a moment, WAC, but first some thoughts
about a man who spouts opinions for a living. . . .
Some of you probably caught me on Bill O’Reilly’s show,
The O’Reilly Factor, on Fox News last week. I was on his
show to promote my new book, Skipping Towards Gomorrah:
The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America,
and O’Reilly began our segment by barking at me about owing
royalties to Robert Bork, the conservative author and social
critic who wrote Slouching Towards Gomorrah. Of course,
if I owe Bork money then Bork owes money to Joan Didion, author
of Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and all three of us
owe money to the estate of W.B. Yeats, the poet who got this
“(blanking) towards (someplace)” business rolling.
Anyway, I was having a nice enough chat with the combative
Mr. O’Reilly, holding my own, defending pot smokers and sex
educators and other sinners. And then, O’Reilly asked me what
I thought about gay bathhouses. I made the mistake of telling
O’Reilly the truth: I hate gay bathhouses and I think they
should be closed. This is not a new position. I’ve been an
on-the-record gay bathhouse basher for 10 years now. (And,
guys, are gay bathhouses even necessary these days? Web sites
like gay.com have basically turned every gay man’s apartment
into a virtual/potential gay bathhouse, so do we really need
to go to the real thing anymore? Why eat out when you can
O’Reilly pounced: “I want to go to a gay bathhouse!” he barked.
“I want to go to a gay bathhouse!” I was stunned. There I
was sitting across the table from the darling of the American
right and . . . and . . . he was shouting at me about wanting
to go to a gay bathhouse. “If I want to pursue happiness in
a gay bathhouse, shouldn’t I be free to do that, Mr. Savage?”
I didn’t know what to say. If Bill O’Reilly wanted to go to
a gay bathhouse, well, who was I to tell him he shouldn’t?
“I want to go to a gay bathhouse! I want to go to a gay bathhouse!”
I told O’Reilly that he was right, admitted that my urge to
close gay bathhouses was inconsistent with my do-whatever-feels-good
positions on drugs and other sexual acts. “You win,” I said,
but really I was thinking, “Get me the hell away from this
guy before he shouts ‘I want to go to a gay bathhouse’ again!”
Picturing gay men in a gay bathhouse is revolting enough;
picturing Bill O’Reilly in a gay bathhouse? That could put
a gay guy off gay sex for the rest of his unnatural life.
But it occurred to me as I was leaving Fox News that there
had to be a talented DJ or two out there who can’t stand O’Reilly.
. . . So, Mr. DJ, why not sample Bill O’Reilly barking “I
want to go to a gay bathhouse!,” put a catchy beat under it,
and release it as an underground dance single? An ambitious
DJ might make a video to go along with the single—a video
that shows Bill O’Reilly barking “I want to go to a gay bathhouse!”
over and over again. If someone pulls together “I Want to
Go to a Gay Bathhouse!,” I’m positive it will be the surprise
dance hit this winter in Ibiza. And wouldn’t that be lovely?
Okay, back to WAC’s letter.
Since I’m still on a book tour—have I mentioned that I’m on
a book tour?—I’m writing this week’s column just like I wrote
last week’s column: sitting on an airplane under the influence
of two anti-anxiety medications (washed down with two anti-anxiety
vodka and tonics), which means I’m in no condition to give
advice to anyone—for the second week in a row! (If this keeps
up I’m gonna get drummed out of the American Association of
Advice Columnists for sure.) As I’m in no condition to give
advice, I decided to run a few letters from people that I
wouldn’t want to give advice to anyway—and that’s where you
come in, WAC. I do get lots of letters from “hopefuls,” as
you call them, and it always blows my mind. Here’s a newsflash
for all the wannabes out there: No advice columnist on earth
wants to help other people “get started.” Why would we? This
is a competitive business, and none of us are interested in
creating any more competition. So I’m sorry, WAC, but you’re
on your own.
I know you give advice about sex,
but I was wondering if maybe you could also give some career
advice. I’m a wannabe sex columnist. I’m in college and I
write a sex/relationship column for the campus newspaper.
Now I’m looking for some advice myself. Sound career advice
in this line of work is hard to come by.
want some sound career advice, CJ? OK: You should definitely
think about having a career—a real career, in some other field.
You had a nice little run at your campus paper, but now it’s
time to find a real job. It appears that all the attention
you college sex columnists have been getting in daily papers
lately has gone to your heads. Let me set you straight: Your
experience writing for a college paper may have left with
you a false impression about the availability of jobs at newspapers
in general and the availability of advice-column gigs in particular.
At college papers, editors, reporters, arts writers, op-ed
columnists, and sex- and relationship-advice columnists are
always up and graduating. Consequently, jobs at college papers
open up a regular clip. In real life, however, people don’t
graduate, they retire or they die, so jobs at real newspapers
can take years and sometimes decades to open up. Since writing
an advice column is a job that you can pretty much do in your
sleep or on your deathbed, advice column gigs almost never
open up. Look at Ann Landers: Her column had to be pried from
her cold, dead hands. My column will have to be pried from
my hands, too.
So here’s my advice for you, JC (and for everyone else who
keeps asking me for advice about getting competing sex or
advice columns off the ground): Don’t kid yourselves. Stop
bothering me. Get a real job.
Savage’s new book, Skipping Towards Gomorrah (Dutton),
is on sale now. For more info, or to find out about Dan’s
tour dates and signings, go to skippingtowards gomorrah.com.
Send your Savage Love questions to firstname.lastname@example.org