Stahl, Jerry 1954- (Herbert W. Day)

views updated

STAHL, Jerry 1954- (Herbert W. Day)


Born 1954, in Pittsburgh, PA; married (divorced); children: Stella. Education: Graduated from Columbia University.


Home—Los Feliz, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, 7th Floor, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.


Writer. Actor in films, including Permanent Midnight, 1998, 12 Rounds, 2000, Gun Shy, Hollywood Pictures, 2000, Zoolander, Paramount Pictures, 2001, Down with the Joneses, Paramount Pictures, 2003, and Hollywood High, Radical Media, Inc., 2003. Interviewed for the episode "Ben Stiller" for the television series Biography, A&E, 2001.


Pushcart Prize, 1976.



(As Herbert W. Day) Café Flesh, VCA Pictures, 1982. Bad Boys II, Columbia Pictures Corporation, 2003.

Also author, with Ben Stiller, of the screenplay What Makes Sammy Run.


Moonlighting, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1985.

Alf, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1986.

"Born to be Mild," thirtysomething, American Broadcasting Company (ABC),1988.

"Politics," thirtysomething, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1989.

"Soapy Sanderson," Northern Exposure, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), 1990.

Twin Peaks (episode 2.4), American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1990.

"Felonius Monk," "The Hunger Artist," "Justice Is Served," "Slaves of Las Vegas," CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), 2000.


Permanent Midnight: A Memoir, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Perv—A Love Story (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Plainclothes Naked (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor to magazines including Playboy, GQ, Village Voice, Esquire, and Hustler.


Permanent Midnight, was adapted for film by David Veloz in 1998.


Biography of Fatty Arbuckle, the silent-movie star tainted by scandal.


In his memoir Permanent Midnight, Jerry Stahl explains in explicit language and vivid imagery his long, hard road from successful writer to street-living heroin addict and back again. A Publishers Weekly critic called it an "unabashedly lurid and often highly entertaining book," while Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post called the movie based on the book and starring Stahl's good friend Ben Stiller a "serious film about one man's sojourn in hell." Renee Tawa commented in the Chicago Tribune: "Stahl's memoir unfolds … with moments of self-loathing interspersed with irony and black humor. He writes, for instance, of injecting heroin at the hospital while his daughter was being born."

Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by a father who eventually committed suicide and a mother who was severely neurotic, Stahl basically lived alone from the age of sixteen or seventeen, at which time he began using drugs. After graduating from Columbia University, he remained in New York City, where his drug use escalated. After winning the Pushcart Prize for a short story when he was twenty-two, Stahl received calls from publishers wanting to know if he had written a novel that they might publish. He told Erik Himmelsbach of "I always knew how to write. I never knew how to live.… I didn't know how to return a phone call. I didn't know how to take a meeting.… I was high all the time."

An editorial posting for Hustler drew Stahl to Los Angeles where, after beginning as a porn writer, he became a successful television writer for series such as Alf, Moonlighting, Twin Peaks, and thirtysomething earning $5,000 a week. However, a $6,000-a-week drug habit cost him writing jobs. Not only could he no longer hold such jobs, at the age of thirty-eight he could not even hold a job as a McDonald's cook. He told Stevens: "I remember hearing my 16-year-old coworkers whispering, 'I think he's retarded.' It's hard to live that kind of stuff down." Even after rehabilitation and the success of his memoir, he relapsed.

By the time he wrote Perv—A Love Story, Stahl had been clean for about five years, and he felt he could safely examine issues such as sexual and substance abuse. "Somehow, because I have more distance from it, I can go deeper into it," he told Himmelsbach. "What's really the disturbing element is the ease with which you can enter a state of mind like that. I wish I could write about a happy accountant in Reseda."

Perv is a fictional account that draws on Stahl's experience during his teens. The central character, Bobby, is expelled from a prep school in Pennsylvania for having gang sex with a consenting girl. Bobby's father committed suicide, and his emotionally unstable mother seeks solace in pills and alcohol. Bobby and Michelle, a girl he had a crush on in kindergarten, decide to hitchhike to San Francisco. They meet Varnish and Meat—older, predatory, hippie junkies who lock them in their car and subject them to a night of verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Himmelsbach called Perv "dark and gruesome … a disorienting, disconcerting, hilarious coming-of-age tale." Rhonda Johnson commented in Entertainment Weekly that it is "not for the easily confused, offended, or overstimulated." In fact, Stahl himself commented to Himmelsbach when asked why his fiction has received so much resistance: "Permanent Midnight is like a Hallmark card compared to Perv."

Stahl went on to write Plainclothes Naked, another darkly humorous novel described by Jeff Zaleski in Publishers Weekly as containing "Wanton violence. Crushing drug addiction. Sexual abuse. It's the world according to Stahl." The story line revolves around a photograph of George W. Bush having kinky sex with the mayor of a tiny town outside Pittsburgh. Characters include two blackmailing crack addicts and a private investigator with a serious drug addiction who happens to be the mayor's ex-husband—among others. "Stahl's talent for supplying a cast of mean yet oddly moving characters is evident, as is his talent for creating tactile, unsettling images," wrote Zaleski.

Stahl now describes himself as a "bearded soccer mom," or, as he told Pope, "I'm totally Fred MacMurray [the straight-laced actor of TV's My Three Sons ] now. I don't do any drugs, and there you are."



Booklist, April 15, 1995, Greg Burkman, review of Permanent Midnight, p. 1451; August, 1999, Ted Leventhal, review of Perv—A Love Story, p. 2030.

Boston Globe, November 15, 2001, Jim Sullivan, "The Real Dope about Heroin. Do You Think There's a Decadent Sort of Glamour about Shooting Heroin? You Know, Living the Life of William S. Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, and Keith Richards?," p. D4.

Chicago Sun-Times, September 18, 1998, Roger Ebert, review of film version of Permanent Midnight, p. 30.

Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2003, Renee Tawa, review of film version of Permanent Midnight, p. 3.

Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1998, "Ben Stiller, Jerry Stahl: The Other Ben & Jerry," p. 24; September 25, 1998, "Ben & Jerry," movie review of Permanent Midnight, p. 78; November 26, 1999, Rhonda Johnson, review of Perv—A Love Story, p. 89.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1995, review of Permanent Midnight, p. 310; September 1, 1999, review of Perv—A Love Story, p. 1340.

Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1995, Bruce Wagner, review of Permanent Midnight, p. 4; September 12, 2001, David L. Ulin, review of Plainclothes Naked, p. E1.

New York Times, November 4, 2001, Kimberly Stevens, "A Night out with Jerry Stahl," p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, April 3, 1995, review of Permanent Midnight, p. 51; August 2, 1999, review of Perv—A Love Story, p. 70.

Variety, September 21, 1998, Glenn Lovel, review of film version of Permanent Midnight, p. 108.

Washington Post, September 18, 1998, Michael O'Sullivan, review of film version of Permanent Midnight, p. N56.


Internet Movie Database, (February 11, 2004), "Jerry Stahl.", 19/stahl/ (October 19, 1999), interview by Erik Himmelsbach, "Celebrity Junkie.".*