Davy Rothbart

My cell phone crows with an odd, frazzled ring when someone shows up as PRIVATE CALLER, and the only two people who ever pop up on my phone like that are Nicole, a woman in Texas I had an intense phone-sex relationship with for a couple of years, and Steve Buscemi, the actor, who I'm working with on a writing project. I made the mistake of explaining this to Buscemi once, and now, whenever he calls, he breathes heavily into my ear and lays on a scratchy whisper: "Hey big boy, what are you wearing?"

So earlier this week, when my phone flashed PRIVATE CALLER, I figured it was either Nicole or Buscemi, but it was actually my 93-year-old grandmother, known as Mimi, calling from her brand-new assisted-care living facility in Philly to congratulate me—she'd heard from my cousins that a movie called Easier With Practice, based on a real-life experience of mine, was opening in theaters this weekend. "What's the storyline, dear?" she asked sweetly.

The movie, in fact, tells the story of me and Nicole's torrid phone-sex affair, which I wrote about in the August 2006 issue of GQ. Adapted and directed by Kyle Alvarez, it's the flick in the history of cinema to earn a NC-17 rating without nudity or violence, for its graphic sexual dialogue alone. A friend of mine, after watching a rough cut last summer in an editing studio in L.A., told me, "Congratulations, dude—Hollywood finally made a movie about you and you spend two-thirds of it jacking off into a sock."



"Well, it's a road movie," I blurted to Mimi—which is true in a sense, but is also kind of like calling Die Hard a Christmas movie because it takes place around Christmas. My conversation with her grew into a series of feints, dodges, and misdirections that would've made Joe Lockhart proud.

MIMI'S QUESTION: "Is it a love story?"
THE TRUTH: Largely, it is, but even as I start to answer, I'm aware that Mimi has met all of my serious girlfriends. To tell her it's a love story risks her asking which of them it's about, and that leads us toward dangerous terrain.
THE SPIN: "Kind of. It's a journey of... self-discovery."

MIMI'S QUESTION: "Does it have a happy ending?"
THE TRUTH: Easier With Practice has more happy endings than the old Lucky Kimono Massage Parlor off I-94, raided and shut down a few years back by the Michigan State Police. There's an entire montage of happy endings. I mean, the filmmakers gave away single souvenir socks at the World Premiere—doesn't that say it all?
THE SPIN: "As happy as it gets!"

MIMI'S QUESTION: "Who's in it? I heard they won some Oscars."
THE TRUTH: 'Davy' is played by Brian Geraghty (from Oscar nomination-orgy The Hurt Locker) and the voice of 'Nicole' comes from Katie Aselton (The Puffy Chair).
THE SPIN: "I don't know if you've heard of them. Some amazing rising talents."

MIMI'S QUESTION: "Should I go see it?"
THE TRUTH: You know, Mimi could probably handle it—she's that fucking cool. But I wouldn't recommend she bring any of her nursing-home neighbors, and ultimately, if she lives to 112 and never watches a ten-minute shot of me (okay, Brian Geraghty) spanking it in a dingy motel room, all will not be lost.
THE SPIN: "I'll just send you the DVD when it comes out,"—meaning: I love you, Mimi, but you will never see this film.

Originally published 24 February 2010. © 2010 Davy Rothbart

EASIER WITH PRACTICE is available on DVD and VOD through AX1 Films. Davy Rothbart’s article “What Are You Wearing?”, which inspired the film, is featured in an exclusive limited edition booklet that accompanies the first edition of the DVD, together with photos from the real-life road trip and an exclusive interview with Rothbart.

Davy Rothbart is the editor of FOUND Magazine (www.foundmagazine.com), a frequent contributor to the public radio show This American Life, and author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. His article “What Are You Wearing” was originally published in US GQ Magazine, August 2006. It will be featured in Rothbart’s forthcoming collection of personal essays, in 2012, from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.