The Ayn Rand ExperiencePosted: November 4, 2011
Did I ever tell you, my dears, about the time that Ayn Rand lost her shirt to the mafia?
I suspect not. Now, let me see.
It was, I think, 1965. Times were hard for Ayn. Bitsy Trump had banned her from her home after the unfortunate Christmas party incident (you all remember that one, dears) and the time she came home to find Ayn hiding in her walk-in pantry with two hams and a kilo of beluga stuffed down her raggedy old knickers. As you know, once you were off Bitsy’s invitation list, you were about as popular as Sidney Poitier at a Klan debutante ball. Ayn was even reduced to buying her own food.
However, worse was to come.
Ayn had gotten herself involved with two legitimate New York businessmen, both members of the Inaffidabili family, and both young men on the make. The Inaffidabili had previously focused on such honorable trades as running queer bars and shaking down shopkeepers. However, a few months previously, an up-and-comer called Vito had become head of the family – the two prior incumbents having eaten something which rather disagreed with them (to wit, their own tongues). Thereupon, word had come down that new blood meant a new way of doing business, not least one in which the ability to breathe was considered a discretionary benefit.
Frankie and Gianni Inaffidabili were Vito’s nephews, and were at the forefront of the modernization and diversification of the family’s business holdings. Frankie was the brains, while Gianni was, to put it charitably, not. Gianni’s talent was more in the area of graphic ultraviolence, usually involving the aforementioned tongues.
Gianni loved amusement parks, and a few months before he had, to his joy, visited Disneyland. Frankie went along to make sure that Gianni behaved himself, after an unfortunate incident the year before when a naked Gianni had humped Donald Duck in the middle of the Macy’s parade.
Gianni had had a wonderful time throwing up on the teacup ride, loitering outside the performers’ change rooms throwing steamy glances at Chip and Dale, and almost capsizing the boat with excitement during the fifty-seventh rendition of “It’s a small world after all”.
Frankie, however, had spent his time more profitably. He eyed up the lines of sweaty square-staters with their wallets open, and the screaming children lugging around sticky, dusty stuffed mice. He tried the food and sidled up to a few of the more disreputable looking employees to check on their rates of pay.
Frankie recognized that he was witness to a scam beyond the wildest dreams of the Inaffidabili, and returned to New York full of ideas.
Ayn was, as everyone now knows, an inveterate, if ceaselessly unlucky, gambler. The woman would bet on two flies on a dog’s arse, and would invariably end up putting her money on the one with the dicky wing and no sense of direction. As a result, she usually owed her bookie big time. Even more usually, although she had scads of cash stashed away under the floorboards of that monstrosity she called an apartment, she didn’t pay up, on the basis that debt was something that happened to other people.
Other people, for example, like her bookie, who also owed money to his bookie, who in turn owed money to a rather ineffectual member of the Inaffidabili family called Donkey. (Due, I understand, to his laugh, which sounded like an ass on heat, and not to his ten inch cock. Just a coincidence, apparently.)
Anyway, as a result of what today would be called a “leveraged buyout” by Frankie – the “leverage” referring to the crowbar Gianni used to tip Donkey and his new concrete shoes off the boat and into the Hudson – all of the former Donkey’s debtors were called upon by Frankie and Gianni for a little chat about their ongoing ability to have little chats, and its unfortunate dependence upon prompt payment.
Ayn was, at least in the short term, lucky. Gianni was a devoted reader of her demented potboilers, having had only a copy of Atlas Shrugged to read while hiding out from the law a few years earlier. When he saw her he fell to his knees and kissed her lumpy fingers, all the while babbling to Frankie about what a genius she was and how she had thousands devoted followers “just like me”, and then babbling to her about how this was as good as, no, even better than Disneyland.
In an instant, Frankie had an idea, a moment of (if you will forgive the pomposity) afflatus, the plan appearing whole in his brain as if put there by the gods.
They would build “The Ayn Rand Experience”. Right here in Ayn’s apartment, her devotees could pay for the opportunity to live her life, to be, even for a few shining moments, their heroine. I must add that Frankie was not entirely convinced that there were, in fact, hordes of sweaty palmed, developmentally-delayed furry-fetishists* willing to fork out ready money to sniff Ayn’s bedsheets. Either way, it didn’t matter. Even if they didn’t come, it wouldn’t be Frankie’s cash that was on the line.
In short, Frankie saw here an opportunity to combine interests both new (theme parks) and old (taking avaricious arseholes to the cleaners) in one tasty package.
With a few soft words that spoke of worship and profits and the difficulty of typing novels with no fingers, Frankie reeled her in. Within a few short minutes, Ayn was the non-silent partner in a new and glorious enterprise, and found herself forking over several hundred thousand rather dusty dollars untimely ripped from below her floor.
Within a few short days, Ayn’s apartment had been transformed. Outside, on the street, there was a neon sign that flashed, and a little canvas booth from which tickets could be purchased. The punter, having forked over a disgusting amount of money, would be escorted to the lift (now renamed the “Taggart Comet”) by a man dressed as a train conductor, who would make choo-choo noises as the lift … sorry, Comet flew them to their destination on tracks made of the finest Rearden Metal.
Stepping off the “train”, our brave adventurer would find himself facing an enormous cut-out head of Ayn Rand, which had been affixed around the door to Ayn’s apartment, with the door inside her gaping mouth. More than one laborer felt a frisson of terror when they were installing that, let me tell you. It was like coming face to face with a baleen whale with a grudge.
Inside, if one dared enter, there was a cavalcade of delights – Ayn’s office, where the discerning reader could see hundreds of signed first editions of her books; the toilet with a little bronze plaque commemorating the place where Ayn first had the inspiration for Atlas Shrugged; and even the typewriter room, where Ayn kept the monkeys chained up while they churned out her next opus horrendum.
The main bathroom was turned over to educational entertainments for the children (on the assumption that even devotees of Ayn Rand must reproduce every now and then by simple blind luck). Outside the door there was a cutout of Howard Roark with his hand about three feet off the ground and a little sign that said, “If you are not this tall, you are a failure and may not ride.”
Those who were worthy to enter were able to sit in a plastic tub in Ayn’s bath and float around while a score of identical little animatronic children in business suits sang a jaunty tune called “Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification”. A dozen repetitions of that ringing in their heads and most children were ready to believe anything. Afterwards they could see the holy relics of St Ayn – the little collection of yellow toenail clippings she kept in an eggcup on the shelf and the plug of manky hair in the sink.
In the spare bedroom, automata (made by the same manufacturer as those in Disney’s Hall of Presidents) endlessly acted out the rape scene from, well, it wasn’t quite clear which of Ayn’s books it was from, but frankly it could be any of them, amirite?
In the main bedroom, one was free to roll around in Ayn’s bed, although for maximum of ten minutes and one’s pants had to stay on. For an extra ten bucks, an actor dressed as Ayn would roll around with you in simulated coitus, making hooting noises and weeping just like the real thing.
At Gianni’s insistence, there was even an animal mascot called Dagny the Dog – some poor schmo being paid a buck an hour for the privilege of wearing an animal suit, prancing around the foyer and fending off the increasingly lusty advances of Gianni.
Sadly for Ayn, the whole thing was not a success.
There were few visitors at that time willing to fork out a three days’ pay in order to live the Ayn Rand experience. Gianni went through about seventeen times, but as he didn’t have to pay that really didn’t help the profit figures.
Gloria Vanderbilt and I visited on the second day it was open, just so we could say we had experienced the full horror. It was a fine, crisp Saturday day and yet, besides the two of us, the paying public consisted entirely of a young couple from Idaho who had gotten awfully lost on their way to Coney Island, and Alan Greenspan, who spent his entire visit in the bedroom moistly fapping away in the corner.
The rest of the world showed its indifference. I think Truman rather caught the vox of the populi when he said, “Sarey dear, if I wanted to feel like a talentless freak who everyone laughs at, I’d go home to visit mother.” **
Within days, the Experience was closed down, Gianni stripped Ayn’s apartment of anything of actual worth to “recoup Frankie’s expenses”, and most of the apartment had been transformed into a cocaine refining facility. Ayn was allowed to keep her bedroom, but only because the chemists who worked there said that the room gave them the heebie-jeebies after about ten minutes.
I visited her at home once after that, but that sad little room, with its bed made out of remaindered novels and the single candle guttering on the cold radiator, along with Ayn’s sad bitter eyes, was just too depressing. I hustled her out of there and took her shopping at Tiffany.
After I’d bought myself a nice new necklace, we went to Central Park, where I bought her an ice-cream and then, when she was distracted, kneed her in the groin and pushed her into the duck pond.
Shortly after that, Ayn decided that the only way to make some money was to hold a charity auction. However, that’s another story…
* Please note that I am not suggesting that all furries are sweaty palmed devotees of Ayn Rand. I know that most of you are perfectly normal and charming people, if a little too fond of polyester. However, I am sure you will admit that the addition of mindless devotion to Ayn Rand turns an otherwise quite sweet little fetish into something entirely repulsive.
** I asked him what the Truman Capote Experience would be like and he said that no one was going to pay fifty bucks to be insulted and roughly sodomised in the back of a truck, when they could have the same thing for free all weekend in the meatpacking district.