Issue 22, Magazine

Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.

Alex Moore :: Monday, November 2nd, 2009 4:00 pm

It’s all in good fun until five minutes later, when shouts from the back yard reveal that one of the girls has dragged the chair just outside the house and managed, along with some miscellaneous debris, to set it on fire. It’s a brief but huge, dirty fire of burning plastic that we all manage to stomp out quickly, but not without fusing melted chair permanently to our sneakers. Jay is proud of his house—which he bought outright, with a single cashier’s check—and protective of his property. He’s pissed about the fire, and gives the girl a talking to, but he doesn’t stay mad long. “I told her I was gonna rip her fake fucking tits out,” he tells me, laughing.

Most of the friends who hang out at Reatard’s house are significantly younger than he is. “Maybe I’m immature,” he offers. “Maybe I like hanging out with twenty year-old kids that like to have fun and play great music. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It beats the hell out of hanging out with most people my age, who are just worried about typing on their fucking Dell and collecting their four hundred bucks a week or whatever they make at their job. That’s fair enough—they’re just trying to get by, too. But I don’t think those people understand me.”

Close to dawn I find my way back to my hotel to prep for the next day’s photo shoot. When we finally do connect the next day it’s around four p.m., and Jay is exhausted. After I left he found an all-night bar and stayed out until ten a.m. When photographer Ray Lego and I get to his house around five, we find Jay feeling lethargic and subdued. There are empty beers and discarded jeans on the floor, and the needle bumps at the end of a record that has finished playing but has sat spinning idly for hours. Jay revs himself up enough to come to life for our shoot, and, knees bouncing, insists on playing us one more track from a metal band he used to play with before we head out.

But his mood stays relatively somber throughout the day. Posing stoically in front of the Mississippi river for the camera, he offers out of nowhere, “This is a dead guy’s shirt.” “What?” I ask, not sure if I’ve heard him correctly. He tells me he found his house through someone his father knew—someone had died, and when Jay moved in there were still some items in the house. He found this tuxedo T-shirt, and liked it, so he kept it.

Reatard seems oddly both more sclerotic and more sensitive about death than most, possibly because he’s seen more of it than many people his age, and the subject comes up a few times throughout the day. He’s clearly upset over the recent loss of a friend who died of cancer, whose funeral he wanted to pay for, but who passed before Reatard could get the money to him. On the other hand, when DJ AM, ex-boyfriend of Mandy Moore, was recently found dead with an Adderal pill stuck to his tongue, Reatard’s reaction was to prank Ryan Adams, Moore’s current husband and his friend, by emailing a photo of himself playing dead, complete with a dummy pill stuck to his dangling tongue.

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2 Responses to “Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.”
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