Matt Tyrnauer did a bang-up documentary called “Studio 54” on the iconic, mid/late ’70s mecca for pathological narcissists. You can still catch it on Netflix — that is, if you can stand being repeatedly nauseated by the Me Gen’s horrifying excesses of money, drugs, sex, and self.
No lie, watching this thing’ll make you wonder, “What took the terrorists so long to strike?”
Funny thing is (as in not-so-funny), one of the partners in the Studio 54 descent into Dante’s Inferno, Ian Schrager, today is a successful boutique hotel developer, well-respected by those who judge people’s value only by how many millions they’ve made, proving once again that life is patently unfair.
Anyway, Tyrnauer, profiled in Sunday’s New York Times, watched “Studio 54” and kept seeing one name cited or referred to again and again. Roy Cohn. The young, ambitious, amoral attorney who helped Joe McCarthy try to turn these United States into the negative image of the Soviet Union grew up to rep mobsters, predatory capitalists, and Donald Trump. In fact, acc’d’g to Tyrnauer, Cohn essentially made Trump.
With the 2016 election approaching, Tyrnauer couldn’t quite figure out why no one had made the definitive doc on Cohn, especially with his protege, Beelzebub Jr., in the race as the Republican candidate. Tyrnauer, though, like way, way, way too many of us, counted Trump’s candidacy as a fluke, that he’d be walloped by Hillary Clinton. Trump then’d go away like Y2K and the Symbionese Liberation Army. That being the case, no one would care about — nor would anybody finance — a movie on Trump’s dybbuk. But then…, you know what happened.
So now Tyrnauer has completed “Where My Roy Cohn?,” a doc to be released in theaters on September 20, and sure to be carried by one of the streaming services before the end of the year. I found this bit from the NYT profile fascinating:
In the documentary, Mr. Tyrnauer interviews one ex-lover of Mr. Cohn and three cousins, including the writer Anne Roiphe. They described Mr. Cohn’s mother, Dora Marcus, as a domineering woman who, when a maid in her employ dropped dead, stored the body under a serving table in the kitchen while she continued Passover dinner.
When Gary Marcus, a cousin, asked the first question of Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Dora blurted out, “Because the maid is dead in the kitchen.”
So, I look forward to seeing this thing, considering I count Roy Cohn among the top American villains of the 20th Century, a list that includes the aforementioned McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Fr. Coughlin, Henry Kissinger, and any and every Dixiecrat.
Here’s the kicker, straight from Tyrnauer’s mouth:
Roy Cohn did the impossible. He created a president from beyond the grave…. The basic lessons that Trump learned from Cohn were: Never apologize. If someone hits you, hit them back a thousand times harder. Any publicity is good publicity. And find an “other.”
That my friends, is the guy we elected president in 2016.
Tune in to the Daily Local News Tuesday at 5:00pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM for Big Talk Extra, the weekly feature including additional conversation from the previous week’s Big Talk. This week, I continue my chat with Courtney Payne-Taylor, founder of GRO (Girls Riders Organization), a nationwide women-in-sports empowerment advocate.
And here’s the link to the podcast of the Thursday, August 29th, Big Talk with Payne-Taylor.