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Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy interviews Clifford Irving on the occasion of his new book release, an autobiography titled Phantom Rosebud and published by Stuart Bailey. The book tour, “The Clifford Irving Show,” is created and led by art mogul Raimundas Malasauskas. To date, it has been presented at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in collaboration with 2012 in Los Angeles.

SH: You are infamous for your “authorized autobiography” of Howard Hughes-a literary scandal during the 1970s well accounted in both your earlier book, The Hoax, which was made into a film last year, and again in Phantom Rosebuds. Do you consider this newest title about your life and times an authorized autobiography, too?

CI: I thought Hughes would never speak up. You know why? Because I too was like him, and the things I had done and seen had silenced me completely. And the lessons of history and being in that bomber, designed by Hughes, that had dropped the A-Bomb onto Nagasaki the day after Hiroshima. Want to know the truth? I don’t think it was Hughes who held that press conference denouncing me. It was probably Jason Robards or someone hired by the Hughes Corporation. The real Hughes was the man of my imagination, long fingernails, bottling his urine, naked all day long because he, I, couldn’t stand the thought of the way clothes are made. Who’s that Japanese designer who turned the seams inside out in his suits? Should have had him make my bathrobes, I mean the bathrobes of Hughes.

SH: Why did you feel compelled to write Phantom Rosebuds? Was it really your discontent with how the 2007 film based on your 1981 book The Hoax turned out to be-that it didn't properly (or was it, “accurately”) represent you? In what way did you feel misrepresented-in terms of the facts or the intentions?

CI: Happy to say that I didn’t contribute a penny to this travesty of my life. Yes, I was a consultant, but fucking Lasse Hallstrom of Sweden ignored nearly everything I told him, or maybe his English didn’t extend to listening. Thirty years after ABBA: the MOVIE, director Lasse Hallstrom has yet to exhibit any signs of talent whatsoever as a director. Was he the man to do justice to this American story? Why did he cast Julie Delp of all people as my Danish mistress, Nina Van Pallandt? Did she seem Danish to him? My people said to me, “He made ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’ your favorite movie in jail.” But I’m here to tell you, Sofia, that a movie you like in prison isn’t going to be a good movie necessarily, it’s going to be a movie you can jerk off to, pardon my French.” Yes, I downloaded it, if saying so won’t revoke my parole.

SH: Your Phantom Rosebuds and your earlier "The Hoax" are both confessional, but show different sides of you—the strategist, the opportunist, the illusionist. What do you believe is the main distinction between these, particularly in regards your literary “tactics”?

CI: Yes, I have different sides, but so do all os us to one extebt or the other. You must remember, Sofiua,m that was I was your age it was not uncommon to hear the word “genius” thrown about in my presence. My first two novels, “On a Darkling Plain” and “The Lovers” were like fiery saboteurs mounting a break or die attack on the cold war landscape of literary conformity. When I walked into a room, people whispered first about my genius, only later about my four young English brides. They asked if I had a little bit of anglophilia in me. Am I a strategist? Yes—I gave Bobby Fischer chess advice, Spassky too. Am I an opportunist? If going for their balls makes you an opportunist, I guess I became one, I had to. An illusionist? The thing Orson Welles loved about me is that, late one night when we were filming “F for Fake” and Orson, shall we say, had availed himself of far too much of the Paul Masson wine that, he claimed, he would not sell before its time. You know Orson had his own magic act? he asked me to get into the long box and said he’d saw me in half. I knocked him out cold while Peter Bogdanovich and John Huston looked on, appalled. Days later when Orson returned to the set, his skull and beard all bandaged in gauze, he shook my hand and hugged me, muttering, “You love me, you destroy me,” after our favorite French writer, the lovely Marguerite Duras.

But you can buy all these stories in my book.

SH: Can you name some of your literary influences, and talk about how they can be "traced" in Phantom Rosebuds?

Duras, of course, and Isak Dinesen. It was I who pointed Orson to the little gilt volume of Dinesen’s stories that contains the immortal Immortal Story. She wrote of the strange, the grotesque, the Gothic if you will. In Phantom Rosebuds, the title of which of course I borrowed from Isak Dinesen, I tell the story of a group of disparate flowers that banded themselves together into one bouquet, to form a strange alliance against death. Some were rosebuds by birth, and some by “imitation.” The moral? Not all of us have the luck to be born rosebuds, my dear. Naturally, Dinesen took her original image of the phantom rosebuds from Orson’s famous speech in Citizen Kane. They ask him what his favorite toy was as a boy, and he replied, “Rosebud.” People thought it was a sled, but no, far from it.

CI: And what about other type of influences, for example, artists (or con-artists, of course) who have left an impression on you?

Brancusi and David Smith and the big men, of course.

I saw Matthew Barney in Ibiza last summer, he was filming a version of F for Fake using the very footage that Orson had filmed of me and Elmyr de Hory, but with modern technology he was able to clip me out of the film and use Richard Gere, while the invisible lines surrounding Elmyr de Hory’s 2-D image were trimmed by Barney’s big shears and Lance Armstrong cavorted into the hole. Yes, the bicycle champ. Barney’s a big man, psychologically speaking. It would have been grand to have him on our side during the Six Day War.

SH: Tell us about your premier book launch of Phantom Rosebuds in Los Angeles? I heard from some that the event didn't actually happen, that it was only a communication piece made up by Art 2102 in conspiracy with Museum of Jurassic Technology, an invitation without an event so to say. I even heard rumors that the book didn't even exist, which, of course, is untrue as I read it just now. Anyway, was there an actual event-and if so, what did you prepare for it?

CI: My appearance was a project of the visiting curator Raimundas Malasauskas (born in the Soviet time in Vilnius, modern day Lithuania). I had met and impressed Malasauskas last summer in Basel when Elaine Stuyvesant, whom I’ve known forever, introduced us under the eye of her dealer, august and rangy Anthony Reynolds.

Before I quite knew what was happening Malasauskas had dreamed up what he called “The Clifford Irving Show” at New Langton Arts in San Francisco in April, an evening in which he screened the trailer for F for Fake, presented a magician, had different variety acts come on, all as teasers for my appearance reading from my new memoir, Phantom Rosebuds. The Scottish art writer Francis McKee wrote the script, I delivered it to wild cheers. The publisher of Phantom Rosebuds, Stuart Bailey, was in attendance, handed me two copies—sweet!

LA was much the same story, only the venue changed and the artists as well. In LA I had Mario Garcia-Torres, Amy Robinson, Nicholas Matranga, Morten Norbye Halvorsen in attendance. Well, all the young boys and girls want to reach out and touch a legend. It’s natural. It’s like me when I was a boy, at the High School of Music and Art in New York, and my mom had Theodore Dreiser come and give me private writing lessons. Who wouldn’t say no to a master! I was just a kid and he was Theodore god-damn Dreiser, I’d have sucked his cock if he’d given the nod. It’s all about transmission, you know?

SH: Where is the book tour taking you next?

CI: I don’t know, doll, where do you want to take me?