Writer and pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman joins Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg to discuss his interests (music), disinterests (turtlenecks) and his latest novel, The Visible Man. Then, we invite Klosterman to join the "Psycho Circus" for an Ask Me Another Challenge about Demon, Starchild, Space Ace, and Catman--otherwise known as the rock band KISS. Klosterman proves that no factoid is too niche when it comes to knowledge of his favorite musicians, and one lucky winner receives a personalized mixtape (rather, a "mix CD" in modern parlance) crafted by Klosterman himself.
About Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; Eating the Dinosaur; and The Visible Man. His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, A.V. Club, and ESPN, and he now writes about sports and pop culture for Grantland.com.
This segment originally aired on June 4, 2012.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Welcome back to NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER, our hour of puzzles, riddles and mayhem.
EISENBERG: I'm your host, Ophira Eisenberg, and joining us is our mystery guest culture guru, author, Chuck Klosterman.
EISENBERG: Welcome. Welcome Chuck.
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN: Great to be here.
EISENBERG: So I have to ask you right off the top 'cause you gave us those clues about yourself, about hating turtlenecks and loving the color orange.
EISENBERG: Can you explain?
KLOSTERMAN: Orange, I don't know why I like it, I just do. It's a little like how the way Prince likes purple, you know.
KLOSTERMAN: I don't have an orange motorcycle, but I prefer things to be orange. And I once read a book about visual communication that implied that people who like orange are always hungry.
KLOSTERMAN: And that is true, I am always hungry.
KLOSTERMAN: Turtleneck thing is more complicated. When I was in fifth grade, I want - I really wanted a Nerfoop basketball set, you know? My mum would not buy me one, so I had to fashion one out of like an ice cream container where you cut out the middle and I would just hang it. And one day I fell like six feet on the concrete and I blocked my fall with my left arm, and I had a very severe compound fracture, both of the bones in my arm busted, blood everywhere.
I was wearing a turtleneck at the time.
KLOSTERMAN: So I get taken to the hospital, I'm from a farm so it was 25 miles away and, you know, they had to cut it off with the scissors. And the worst part was them turning my arm in order to cut off this turtleneck. So I have this really strange relationship with turtlenecks. Whenever I see one, the first thing I remember is the way it felt in my stomach when they were turning the broken bones in my arm to cut my turtleneck off.
And it's very odd because many women, including my wife, are very attractive when they were black turtlenecks. It's a really good look. So whenever I see a woman with a black turtleneck, I am torn between wanting to sleep with her and throw up.
KLOSTERMAN: So I prefer not having turtlenecks around me.
EISENBERG: At least you're lucky that you know where the problem comes from. You write about pop - I mean you write about so much, but pop culture, music, sports. You have seven books; five of them non-fiction, two of them fiction. You published billions of magazine articles, yet you grew up on a farm in North Dakota, which I am assuming was pretty culturally void.
KLOSTERMAN: Well I guess, yes, that is true. I mean, unless you consider corn part of culture. It was, I suppose. Everyone always says that, but at the same time, it's like we got TV. You know, "Miami Vice" was on, you know. You know I could, you know, buy Poison albums or whatever. I guess the important stuff got to me, but yes, I mean I never had cable gr -
EISENBERG: The important stuff?
KLOSTERMAN: I never had cable growing up, I wonder if - I wonder what I would be like if I did.
EISENBERG: And we are very thankful, because you speak in prizes, you made our grand prize tonight for our winner. It is a - his own very mixed CD, that's what our grand prize winner gets tonight.
KLOSTERMAN: And really valuable.
EISENBERG: It is very valuable.
KLOSTERMAN: A burned CDR -
EISENBERG: But wait a second.
KLOSTERMAN: With a bunch of songs that are on the Internet.
KLOSTERMAN: Who could believe it exists?
EISENBERG: All right, so here's the big hint as to what we're about to put you through, OK Chuck?
EISENBERG: So I was reading your book "Killing Yourself To Live."
KLOSTERMAN: Are you really reading it or just going to tell - ?
EISENBERG: Yes, I was.
KLOSTERMAN: OK, it's fine, you can lie if you want.
EISENBERG: I'm going to have to work on your self-esteem, Chuck.
EISENBERG: I was reading your book.
KLOSTERMAN: OK, great. Awesome.
EISENBERG: And I like the fact that, not only are you a big Kiss fan -
KLOSTERMAN: I am.
EISENBERG: But you compared some of the women that you were in love with, to different characters in Kiss.
KLOSTERMAN: That's true, I did do that.
EISENBERG: Which is a great way of categorizing the world.
KLOSTERMAN: Very normal [unintelligible].
EISENBERG: Very normal. So I would like to know something about a woman that you compared to Gene Simmons.
KLOSTERMAN: Well they had similar hair. They both had elements of Judaism in their existence. You know, they were very interested in capitalism, I have to say. And they were very interesting - they were very interesting people. I think the funniest thing about this whole - there is a kid, she's talking about this book "Killing Yourself To Live," there is one part where I talk about every woman I've sort of been in love with and I compare them to a member of Kiss.
And Bruce Kulick, who was the Kiss - the guitarist for Kiss, he was like after Ace Frehley, after Vinnie Vincent, after Mark St. John, he was the guy who was the guitar player, and he has a website. And I saw one time on his website he talked about this part of this book where I compared him to a photographer I dated in Akron, Ohio, very briefly.
And he was very excited that I'd done this, that I'd done this. And I felt like, this really shows how self-aware Bruce Kulick is. He's like, wow, this guy sort of reminds me of this girl he wasn't that into. Well, what a successful career I have had. It made me think he was the greatest guy in the world, you know.
KLOSTERMAN: The thing is I remember things that other people forget, that is my problem
EISENBERG: That is your talent, my friend, that is your talent. All right, well some of those things that you remember that people forget we're about to test.
EISENBERG: So, Chuck -
EISENBERG: It's time for you to take your space behind the podium.
KLOSTERMAN: OK, let's go.
EISENBERG: Give him a hand, everybody. Chuck Klosterman.
So, Chuck, do you have any idea of what we're about to do to you? Do you have an inkling?
KLOSTERMAN: Is my wife going to freak out over this?
EISENBERG: No, your wife is not going to freak out.
KLOSTERMAN: OK, then no, I have no idea. OK.
EISENBERG: OK. Let's bring back our puzzle guru John Chaneski.
JOHN CHANESKI: Hi Chuck.
EISENBERG: He's very excited to present this next game.
CHANESKI: Chuck, you wanted the test and you got the test. The hottest band in the world Kiss.
EISENBERG: OK, so we also want to tell you, Chuck, that there's sort of an added element, 'cause you will be playing for a lucky member in our audience. Hannah Dias(ph), can you stand up?
WILL HINES: There she goes.
EISENBERG: So, Hannah, you're in luck. So here's what's going to happen. Chuck, if you get -
KLOSTERMAN: I really thought you were going to say you'll be playing a member of Kiss.
KLOSTERMAN: And I was like Terry Gross will not be happy.
EISENBERG: No, you're going to play. So basically if you get six right, Hannah is going to win a lovely prize.
EISENBERG: But if you don't get it right -
KLOSTERMAN: I'll give her 1000 bucks.
EISENBERG: I like the way you think.
CHANESKI: Here we go, here's the first question .The Kiss logo, with its two S's shaped like lightning bolts, is famous worldwide. However, most Kiss albums and merchandise in one particular country use backwards Z's instead of lightning bolts. What country is that and why?
KLOSTERMAN: Germany because it represents the Kiss - the Nazi SS, so they have to just make it different, so the logo looks almost like normal S's.
CHANESKI: Yes, exactly.
EISENBERG: You're correct.
CHANESKI: Good job.
CHANESKI: It is illegal to display the SS logo in Germany. Very good, Chuck.
EISENBERG: And I love that you're using the bell. You don't have to 'cause you're playing against -
KLOSTERMAN: I don't have to use the bell? Oh OK.
EISENBERG: Yeah, but you can. I like it. Yeah.
EISENBERG: It feels good, right?
CHANESKI: Yeah. Many teenagers first exposure to seeing Kiss was on a 1976 television Halloween special hosted by someone unusual. Who was it?
KLOSTERMAN: Oh Paul Lynde.
CHANESKI: Paul Lynde is right.
CHANESKI: Very good.
EISENBERG: Circle gets the square.
CHANESKI: For a while two Kiss cover bands made up of little people were in a legal battle over the very idea of a little people Kiss cover band. What were the names of the two bands?
KLOSTERMAN: Mini Kiss.
CHANESKI: Mini Kiss is one.
CHANESKI: There were two of them.
EISENBERG: It's hard to believe.
KLOSTERMAN: So it's like a class action suit.
CHANESKI: It almost was, yes.
If you had more digits, what would you name a little people cover band for Kiss, yeah?
KLOSTERMAN: That's tough. Dwarf Kiss?
CHANESKI: No, no. It was Tiny Kiss.
CHANESKI: Tiny Kiss, yes. Kiss and Tiny Kiss. Chuck, in 1978 the four founding members of Kiss simultaneously came out with individual solo albums. Gene Simmons' solo album included a cover of what Disney classic?
KLOSTERMAN: "If You Wish Upon A Star."
CHANESKI: "When You Wish Upon A Star," very good from Pinocchio. Good job.
EISENBERG: I want 'em to do hi-ho hi-ho and off to work -
CHANESKI: You wanted Gene Simmons to do hi-ho hi-ho.
About what item of Kiss merchandise did Gene Simmons say, "I love living, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good?"
KLOSTERMAN: Well, I would guess it would be the Kiss Koffin with a K.
CHANESKI: Yes, the Kiss Kasket with a K. Very good, Chuck.
CHANESKI: If my two brothers, my sister and myself were to dress as the original members of Kiss in full makeup for Halloween, how many different colors of makeup would we need, and what colors are they?
KLOSTERMAN: Oh, what members are you being?
CHANESKI: The original. Original, original makeup.
KLOSTERMAN: But what two members are you, because they don't all need the same makeup?
EISENBERG: Oh no, all of them.
CHANESKI: No, all four of us.
KLOSTERMAN: Oh you have three sisters?
CHANESKI: Sorry, let me say it again. If my two brothers, my sister and myself, I have three siblings, were to dress as the original members of Kiss for Halloween, what makeup would we need?
KLOSTERMAN: Well, white -
KLOSTERMAN: Black -
KLOSTERMAN: Silver -
KLOSTERMAN: Red -
CHANESKI: Green. I'll take that, you know why?
CHANESKI: Because Ace Frehley only wore blue around his eyes occasionally.
CHANESKI: But yes, that's a good answer. Chuck, nice work.
KLOSTERMAN: Thank you. Thank you.
CHANESKI: You know what? You are very, very good.
EISENBERG: Chuck, you did amazing, which makes you really a winner.
CHANESKI: He's the god of thunder.
EISENBERG: Just want to say that tonight.
CHANESKI: He is the god of thunder. Yes.
EISENBERG: Somewhere between amazing and trying, we have you, that's right. So we have some prizes first for Hannah. Hannah, you want to come up here, so we can give you your prize? Hannah Dias(ph).
EISENBERG: Hannah, are you a super fan?
HANNAH DIAS: I am.
EISENBERG: You are, all right, well we have some books here that you may not have. Would you like to introduce the books?
KLOSTERMAN: Yeah, well for some reason, if your book comes out in different countries they send you lots of copies of them, but I can't speak any language except English and only sort of, so I have like the - like this is like the German version of one of my books. I don't even know what language this is.
KLOSTERMAN: This looks like Spanish, but so does this. So regardless, these are [unintelligible].
EISENBERG: And your own NPR music tote bag to put them in.
Hannah, Chuck, Chuck, Hannah, congratulations. And for you Chuck, what every Kiss fan has been dreaming of -
KLOSTERMAN: Tote bag.
EISENBERG: An NPR music tote bag.
KLOSTERMAN: Awesome. Thank you.
EISENBERG: You're a great guest. Thanks, man. Chuck Klosterman, everybody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "BETH")
SHONALI BHOWMIK: (Singing) Beth, I hear you calling and I can't come home right now. Me and the boys we've been playing and we just can't find the sound. Just a few more hours and I'll be right home to you. I think I hear them calling. Beth, what can I do? Beth, what can I do?
EISENBERG: Shonali Bhowmik -
EISENBERG: With Kiss's highest charting song - ballad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.