Did I ever tell you about the closest I ever came to having my name in Time Magazine? Admittedly, not as big a deal now as it would have been in, say, 1939, but it was a little bitty milestone in my life as a semi-public, widely-unknown writer. I came across this the other day after having long forgotten about it.
In April 2007, the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was showing a beautifully assembled exhibit titled Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966. It was overseen by my friend Colleen Sheehy, a museum administrator and curator with a specialty in rock ‘n’ roll-related exhibits. Colleen had also done the Herculean job of convening almost every notable Dylan critic, scholar, and commentator on earth – plus several dozen non- or less-notables like me – for a four-day conference of panel discussions to coincide with the exhibit.
Trying to take a less reverent tack on Dylan, I wrote about the recurrence of border imagery in his songs; his uses, both more and less successful, of sleaze as a creative element; quoted the dirtiest lines I could find penned by the man himself; and played music clips from the 1961 Minnesota Hotel Tape, the Basement Tapes, Planet Waves, and Street-Legal, tying it all into an idea of borders as imaginative sites of freedom and disease, breakaway and breakdown. Taking a line from the song “Tough Mama,” I titled the talk “Hotter Than a Crotch: Bob Dylan at the Borderline of Sleaze.”
A press release went out, and my title was evidently irresistible to Time’s Rebecca Winters Keegan. She didn’t mention my name, as why should she. But still: I’ve never, ever gotten blasé about seeing my work – even just a title – in print.
One night at the conference, my wife and I had dinner with Colleen and a host of others, including such aforementioned notables as Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, and Robert Polito. Greil said something like, “Obviously, you devised that title for the sole purpose of getting mentioned in Time Magazine.” And I said something like, “It worked, didn’t it?”