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Dear Lyle

Stewart Oksenhorn

I have a New Year’s resolution to make, probably the first one I have any intention of keeping. But I’m going to need the help of a certain tall-haired Texas singer-songwriter to do it.

I, Stewart Oksenhorn, hereby resolve that sometime in this year of our Lord 1999, I will interview you, Lyle Lovett.

The saga of my previous, and to-date fruitless, efforts to interview you have been detailed on the pages of The Aspen Times before, and need only be summarized now.

Each and every time you have come to perform in Aspen over the last five years – and that’s a lot of appearances – I have tried to cajole an interview with you. I have spoken to record company publicists (Stacy Studebaker at MCA now simply plays the “Lyle’s not doing any interviews right now” tape every time I call), local concert promoters, your former management, your assistant at the Inklein office. I have spoken, hurriedly, to you, yourself, face to face as you walked the streets of Aspen; you told me to get in touch with those record company publicists and managers who had already proved no help whatsoever in actually getting me an interview. I have dropped word with workers at the Ritz/St. Regis to relay word to you.

And on one memorable occasion a few months back, you actually called me here at the Times. You told me you had heard I had been trying to get an interview (DUH!) and gave me the phone number for the office that handles all your affairs. You said I should call whenever I’m ready to do the interview.

Well, guess what Mister Too-Busy-Making-Movies-and-Albums-and-Even-Finding-the-Time-to-Record-a-Walking-Tour-Tape-for-the-Houston-Contemporary-Art-Museum-to-Spend-15-Minutes-on-the-Phone-With-Stewie. I’ve been ready to do the interview for weeks now, ever since I heard you were coming to play New Year’s shows at the Wheeler. Me and your friend Vance Knowles have become everyday phone buddies; I know the spiel by heart:

“Stewart, Lyle says he really wants to do an interview with you,” says Vance. “He’s not talking to anyone else; Rolling Stone called and I had to tell them no. But he wants to talk to you. We just need to set up a time that’s good.”

Dude, I’ve been ready to do the interview since the mid-’90s. Any time is good for me.

Late Wednesday afternoon was my last contact with your esteemed associate Mr. Knowles, who was calling from the airplane. He said you could call midmorning on Thursday, and would that work for me? Of course, I told him. That would be perfect.

So here it is Thursday morning, I’m on deadline and I’m counting on a Lyle Lovett interview for my Friday morning page one story. I’m glued to my desk, afraid to even go to the bathroom for fear I may miss your phone call.

No call. So much for those supposed impeccable Southern manners that have everyone backstage at the Wheeler so charmed.

But Lyle, I refuse to throw in the towel. Instead I will resort, as I have in the past, to my guerrilla journalist tactics. (Hey, I got some laughs from this the few times before, with you and with Bob Weir when he wouldn’t give me an interview either. Might as well try again.)

Here’s how it works: I write out my questions below. You either pick up a phone and call in the answers – or better yet, stop by The Aspen Times, 310 E. Main St., and we’ll chat, man to man, mano a mano. Or, if you must, write out the answers and send them to me.

This time, it’s personal. Read on, my friend.

1. So many of your fellow Texas songwriters you love so much go by three names – Willis Alan Ramsey, Robert Earl Keen, Michael Martin Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt. I think you should add a name, and I’ve got one picked out: Lyle Yitzhak Lovett. Rolls right off the tongue. What do you think?

2. Is the Billy Williams who co-produces all your CDs the same Billy Williams who used to manage the Club Soda here in Aspen? He’s a good guy.

3. How’s your skiing coming along? Have you tried snowboarding?

4. Is it hard to get Sam Bush to put on a suit? I’ve seen Sam play a few times on his own, and I’ve seen him play with you, and the sartorial difference is shocking. And do you ever tell Sam to stop bobbing up and down so much when he plays? That must get distracting.

5. You’ve been in, by my count, three movies so far, and in two of them – Robert Altman’s “The Player” and this year, Don Roos’ “The Opposite of Sex” – you played a cop. What’s up with that? I don’t look at you and think, “Hmmm. Cop.” Are you afraid of being typecast?

6. My (Houston native) wife and I were in Houston recently, and we went to the Houston Contemporary Art Museum and picked up one of those tapes that give you a self-guided walking tour. And lo and behold, whose voice is on the tape but yours? Are you a big contemporary art fan? If so, you should check out the Bill Viola exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum. It’s cool.

7. For my future reference (I tried to ask you before my trip, but we know how that worked out): What’s the best barbecue joint in the Houston area? My wife and I went to Otto’s and that was real good. And where do you go for Mexican food? We went to Ninfa’s – the original one, in the Second Ward. That was great.

8. What’s your favorite restaurant in Aspen, now that the Howling Wolf isn’t serving food any more?

9. I asked you this last time, to no avail, but I’ll ask again. My old band The Limits used to do an a cappella version of “Church” and I got to sing the “Mama’s in the kitchen” part and, if I do say so myself, I used to kick ass on it. With no disrespect to your cellist John Hagen, who usually does that part when you all play the song, I’d be happy to get onstage at the Wheeler with you sometime in the next few days and sing the line. C’mon, it’ll rip!

10. Hey, that “Step Inside This House” CD of yours is great. Since you didn’t write any of the songs, you must be stockpiling the original material. When can we expect a new CD?

11. I saw you and your band appear recently on that “Sessions on West 54th” show. Those scenes with you and David Byrne (of Talking Heads) talking about music are awesome – he’s even more eccentric than you. Did you like him?

By the way, up here in the mountains, the word “sessions” has a particular slang meaning – and it don’t have anything to do with music. Did you guys have a “session” before you taped the show?

12. Have you seen “Stepmom,” with what’s her name? It seems kind of dumb. What was your favorite movie of 1998, not including “The Opposite of Sex” (which was damn good)?

13. What was your favorite CD of 1998? I really liked that Billy Bragg and Wilco “Mermaid Avenue” disc. Have you heard that one? You should.

14. Did you really tell Vance that you won’t talk to Rolling Stone but you want to talk to me? Even though we haven’t spoken – yet – it would be cool if you actually did say that. “Put Rolling Stone on hold. I’ve got to talk to Stewart!”

15. Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Like maybe, talking to me?

Call me at The Aspen Times (925-3414) with your answers. Or call me at home: I’m listed.

Or, if you don’t want to have anything to do with me, just tell Vance to relay the word and I’ll quit pestering you.

But stop leading me on. This heartbreak is killing me. Now I understand why you didn’t want to be a journalist.


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