James Judd - "Madame Riding Crop and the House of Licoline"

Jul 31, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

From PRX and NPR, you're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT Live - the Breakout Special. My name is Glenn Washington, and this next story does mention a house of ill repute. You should know that - just in case you care - I'm jealous of you regardless because SNAP is about to drop a bomb.

Here at the SNAP, we call it the closer. Please put your hands together for Mr. James Judd.

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES JUDD: Well, nobody said don't come on stage with a martini and a tambourine.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: The late 1990s - like, the year 2000 - the height of the first great dotcom boom, and San Francisco was its epicenter. So I thought, I've got to get in on this. People were becoming millionaires overnight. Money was just falling from the sky. People were going to work in their pajamas. They were bringing their dogs. They were playing ping-pong. It was an amazing time like we'll never experience again, except for, like, right now.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So I thought, I got to get in on this. But what can I do? Well, I look in the want-ads and I find an ad for this big, fancy technology magazine that's looking for someone with legal and technology knowledge. I think, well, this is perfect. I have some legal knowledge and I use technology, so how hard can it be to write about?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I send in my resume, and immediately the editor-in-chief calls me in. And he looks at my resume and he says, well, this is a very impressive resume, but I don't actually see here that you have any experience in the technology sector. We're the biggest technology magazine out there. We cover all the major players and issues. Do you know anything about technology? And I say, no.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: He said, well, can you start Tuesday?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And just like that, I'm hired. And they start sending me out immediately in all these exotic places, like Cupertino...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...And Los Gatos - the cats - and the Milpitas and Fremont. It's very exotic, and I'm loving it. And one day, my boss says, pack your bags. You're going to China (gasps). Well, there's one little twist to the story. A couple days earlier, this spy plane was forced to land off the coast of China. Anyone remember that? So the Chinese government has said there's going to be no more visas for U.S. journalists. It's not going to happen - no way, no how. So my boss wants me to sneak into China as a tourist, interview these five guys he's got picked out and get home without getting caught. Well, it seems like kind of a bad time to be trying to pull a fast one on the Chinese government.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: But you know what? I weigh my options. I think, well, I could refuse to go on moral grounds, but possibly lose my job and lose my house and lose my boyfriend, or I could go to China and risk getting caught and I wind up in a Chinese prison and I wake up one day missing my kidneys.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I'm going to China.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And I'm going to go because I'm going to be there on my 36th birthday, and I think it will be great, great luck to celebrate my 36th birthday by standing on the Great Wall of China - at least this is what I tell the people at the embassy near the Kabuki hot springs, which, by the way, is fabulous. You should definitely go there if you can. And while they - you know, they kind of have a little qualm, but then they stamp my passport and I'm off. And I get on the plane, then I fade to black.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And when I wake, I'm in China.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, I put on my blue pinstripe suit. I put on my red tie, my shiny black shoes. I rush out of the hotel to find a limousine waiting for me. And next to the limousine is a very tall guy in a black hat, mirrored sunglasses, black tie, black suit. He says, call me Mr. Goo (ph). And I get into the back of the limousine, and the five guys that I've come to interview are already seated around this limousine. We're going to drive around Beijing because they don't want to be seen with a U.S. journalist. Now, these five guys were all born in China, but they made - they were educated in the United States, and they made millions of dollars on Wall Street - maybe billions of dollars. And now, they've all moved back to China, where together they have a plan to make China the leader in the world's technology race. And they're talking about - I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I don't know. But here's what I do - when I don't know what people are saying, which is most of the time - I don't know what these people are talking about. I mean, I can't even spell the words that are coming out of their mouths. I bring out a little tape recorder, and I say, I'm not going to take notes. Instead, I'm here to listen to you.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So we're driving around Beijing, and all the sudden somebody pulls out a bottle of mysterious Chinese liquor. And everyone goes, hooray.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And then shot glasses come out. And they pass it around the limousine, and everyone goes, hooray. And then I take a sip of it. It tastes like a combination of black licorice and gasoline.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I dub it lic-oline (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And it goes around and around and around. Everyone goes, hooray. And pretty soon, everyone is really drunk. And then one of the guys turns to one of the other guys and goes, hey, why don't we take James with us and show him how deals are really closed in China?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And Mr. Goo speeds up. And when we stop and we step out, we're in the shadow of giant neon hula girl. And her eyes are blinking, and her hips are shaking, and she's playing ukulele beneath two giant, pink, blinking, naked breasts. And I think, OK, well, a night of giant, naked breasts would be my second choice.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, somebody rings the doorbell, and a woman with a beehive and a riding crop answers the door. And she goes, hooray. And all the guys go, hooray. Well, Madam Riding Crop leads us through a maze of corridors of doors with little windows. And finally, she opens the door, and we step inside one of them. And it's kind of a small room with green shag carpeting and wood paneling, a couch, a coffee table and a TV set. And we stand there awkwardly in silence for a few moments. And then Mr. Goo opens the door, and in marches a line of girl. And they're kind of tall and they have big hair and, like, sparkly tube tops and those very shiny, too-much-information Celine Dion pants, except for one small girl at the end in a black cocktail dress and a side pony - really very chic. And one of the guys turns to me and he says, pick one.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I say, (laughter)...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...I'm here to listen to you.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: He says custom dictates that you've got to choose before we can choose, so you got to pick one. All the guys start going, pick one, pick one, pick one, pick one, pick one. I say, OK, her. And I pointed to the girl at the end in the little black cocktail dress because I think that'll look the nicest next to my blue pinstripe suit.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And she comes over, and she says, my name is Lisa (ph), but I know it's the only thing she can say in English. And all the guys go, hooray, and they pick their girls. And everyone goes, hooray. And then we all sit on the couch and Madam Riding Crop brings out another bottle of lic-oline, and everyone goes, hooray. And pretty soon everyone is taking shots of lic-oline and singing "Desperado."

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: That TV comes to life as a karaoke machine. The guys start getting up and singing. Well, first of all, conversation between me and Lisa is strained at best.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And my little laminated Chinese handy expressions card in my wallet doesn't include anything I care about, like is it hard to find good skincare products in China?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Or do you have a brother nearby?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Awkward. Well, Madam Riding Crop takes the couple at the end of the couch, and she leads them out. They're gone for about a half an hour, and they came back. No one says a word about it. And then she takes the next couple, and they leave - and the next one and the next, until, pretty soon, Lisa and I are the last ones left in line. Well, I see Madam Riding Crop coming toward me. And she's got that look in her eye, like, OK, gringo. It's your turn to see the big, round bed in the back. I panic. I get up. I grab the microphone from whoever has it. I say, oh, it's - it's my turn to sing. And I press through the list of songs. I press play. (Singing) If I could turn back time.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: (Unintelligible). Now, Lisa has an expression on her face that needs no translation because that expression means the same thing in every language of every country on the planet.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: There is something just not right about this guy.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Am I going to get a tip? Well, Madam Riding Crop keeps coming toward me, and now I'm really panicked. But suddenly, just as she approaches me, one of the guys gets up, and he whispers something in her ear, and she claps her hands. And all the girls, including Lisa, get up, and they run out of the room. And one of the guys turns to me and he says, we've got a surprise for you. OK, so here's a funny thing about me - I am normally not the type of person who is ever at a loss for words, but usually it happens whenever I'm in the presence of my four Mormon aunts from Utah. Now, all the people on my father's side of the family are Mormon. And they all live in Utah, and they are deeply devout Mormons and deeply devout Republicans. I am not.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So we've always had a very cordial, never seeing, speaking or referring to each other sort of relations. But once a year, all the aunts will fly in from Utah to go shopping - usually at Christmas. And somehow, I get roped into taking them around. I take them around Union Square, and then I take them to the Cheesecake Factory. Mormons love the Cheesecake Factory.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And I look up and Aunt Mimi (ph), the most religious and politically fanatic of the group, is giving me this look. What? I just feel really bad for you. Why? (Gasps) Because of your lifestyle. Because of your lifestyle, you will never get to experience God's greatest miracle to heterosexuals. I said, what are you talking about? I'm in the Cheesecake Factory, aren't I?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: When are you going to have a baby?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I don't know what to say anymore. I don't know what to say. I mean, how many times can you answer the same question over and over and over again? I wish - I wish I had some sort of saucy, snappy comeback, something Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde or even Charles Nelson Reilly...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...Something like, I guess when my boyfriend grows a giant vagina.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Aunt Mimi says, don't you and your Spanish friend want to raise a child? Now, my Spanish friend is Eric, my then-California-state-registered domestic partner of many, many years and now my legally wedded spouse. And of course they know it.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDD: Oh, thank you. Oh my gosh. Hey, listen, if want to get us a gift, we're still registered on Craigslist.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And Eric is a native of Puerto Rico and a native Spanish speaker, and they all know it because we've been together now, like, 10 years or - well, 10 or 12 years, depending on how you do the math, because I stalked him for two years, so...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...He's been with me for 10. I've been with him for 12.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And the fact is, no. No, I don't want a baby. Look, if I wanted a baby, I'd get a baby. Being gay has never been any barrier to getting a child. Are you kidding me? If I had a dollar for every single woman over 35 that tried to get sperm out of me to make a baby, I'd have $3.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: (Inaudible). Eric and I would consider adopting an older child, but only if he or she completed some sort of course in bookkeeping.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: We have troubles with our taxes, but I digress. Back at the whorehouse...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...Madam Riding Crop is coming toward me, and she's got that look that says, you ready to see the big, round bed in the back? And I'm starting to panic. I think, what am I going to do? I've got to get out of this. And then one of the guys gets up and he whispers something into her ear, and she claps her hands, and all the girls, including Lisa, get up and they run out of the room. And I think - the guy turns to me and he says, we've got a surprise for you. I'm thinking, I'm trapped. I'm trapped. What am I going to do? Even if I get out of here, I don't know my way around Beijing (gasps). It's panic. It's panic. And just before I get up and I make a break for it, the door flies open. But instead of the Red Army, in marches Mr. Goo. And behind him come each of the girls, and they're waving lighted sparklers in their hands. And behind him comes Madam Riding Crop, and she's got a birthday cake that says happy birthday, James, in Chinese and English. And the five Chinese billionaires, the 6 Chinese hookers, the one madam with the riding crop and Mr. Goo sing "Happy Birthday" to me at 3 a.m. inside of a Beijing whorehouse.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDD: So tell me, how can the Great Wall of China top that?

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: SNAP JUDGMENT Live - the "Breakout" special. See it for yourself right now. Watch and share these stories with your world for free - snapjudgment.org. Subscribe to the free podcast while you're there. And all the music for this show, including this music, was composed by the amazingly magical Alex Mandel (ph), performed by Alex and the SNAP players, Tim Fricke (ph) and dangerous David Brandt (ph). Thanks as well to Ana Alderstein, Jazmin Aguilera, Davey Kim, Matt Ducot (ph), our own mixologist, Pat Mesiti-Miller. Show some love for the uber producer Mark Ristich because even though this is not the news - no way is the news - this is NPR.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.