Lenny Kravitz Is a Virgin (Again)
The legendary lady-killer says it's time for a love revolution. The sex can come later.
It’s around midnight, and I’m in the lobby of a loft building in SoHo, waiting for Lenny Kravitz, and I’m feeling savagely insecure. We’re to go to a nightclub, GoldBar, and in my mind, I’m doing that old high-school composition thing, compare and contrast, and the subjects are Kravitz and yours truly.
We’re both 43, but he’s a multimillionaire and I have no money in the bank, though I do have a nice amount of debt. He’s famously handsome, the Brad Pitt of rock’n’roll, and has been married to Lisa Bonet and linked to Nicole Kidman and Naomi Campbell, among others. I’m bald, and my false front tooth has turned brown from coffee. He’s sold millions of records singing about love — his new album is called It Is Time for a Love Revolution. I’m primarily known, and not well at that, for penning self-hating essays, the most famous of which is “I Shit My Pants in the South of France.”
Then I remember something crucial: I read several old interviews and profiles of Lenny Kravitz, and it was reported more than once that he stands only five-foots-even. I’m six-foot, when I don’t affect the posture of a fishhook, which is most of the time, but if I can remember to stand up straight, I’ll tower over him! I may be ugly and poor, but at least I’ll be taller than Lenny Kravitz, and that’s got to give me some advantage. Though why I feel the need for any kind of advantage and can’t just meet him as a fellow human being, I don’t know. Perhaps because we’re not meeting as human beings: We’re meeting as a Rock Star and One More Annoying Journalist.
The elevator opens, and he is striding toward me, with a pigeon-toed gait, holding a glowing iPhone. He’s got a bulky, muscular upper torso and thin legs. I stand, and we shake hands, and he’s taller than me! Is he wearing lifts? I wonder. I look at his black boots and don’t think there could be lifts in them. So it’s simply my low self-esteem asserting itself once more and distorting reality. Whenever I see photos of myself with others, I’m often shocked to observe that I’m far taller than whomever I’m with, especially when my experience, at the time of the photo, was that I was smaller.
“There’s supposed to be a car outside for us,” he says. He’s wearing black jeans, a black sweater, and a thick winter hat. I follow him out into the November night.
“It’s really nice to meet you,” I say, like a girl in an etiquette book. He nods his head, looks at his iPhone.
A Lincoln Town Car pulls up. Kravitz tells the driver where to go-GoldBar is only three blocks away.
“We could walk,” says Kravitz, “but since we have the car…”
We sit in silence a moment, and then I say, “Congratulations on the new album –” and then I freeze, struck by my own dullness, but my brain reassembles. “It’s a really beautiful album,” I continue. “I especially love ‘I Love the Rain.’ “
“Thanks, man,” he says, smiling.
We pull up to the club. There’s a crowd of about 50 people waiting to get in. Kravitz gets out of the car, and he’s met immediately by a large black bouncer who has the physique of two washing machines stacked on top of each other. The bouncer leads as we bypass the line and make our way through the club. Men and women stare at Kravitz, and some reach for him, just to touch him. They look at me, wondering what a human fishhook is doing with Lenny Kravitz.
We make it to the back of the club, and there’s a VIP setup of banquettes. A small group of people are standing and dancing in this area, and the bouncer introduces Kravitz to a fellow with a weakish chin. I realize that it’s Zach Braff, but he must be a lesser VIP, because he doesn’t get a seat at one of the banquettes, but Kravitz and I do.
We sit down, and the bouncer points out to Kravitz a loose-limbed, frat-boyish fellow dancing with an attractive blonde a few feet away. The bouncer recedes, as well as two stacked washing machines can recede, and Kravitz calls out to the frat boy, “John!” This John doesn’t hear him, and so Kravitz repeats himself: “John!…John!…John!” By the last “John,” the guy finally snaps out of his goofy dance and peers over. He comes and shakes Kravitz’s hand and mine, smiles, and goes back to his blonde.
“Who’s that?” I shout over the din.
“That’s John Mayer,” Kravitz shouts back.
I recognize the name and know that he’s famous, but I’m not sure why. “Is he a musician?” I shout.
“Yeah, he’s a great guitar player.”
I look over at John Mayer and realize that the blonde he’s dancing with is Cameron Diaz. She’s doing a version of her Charlie’s Angels ass wiggle.
“Do you drink tequila?” Kravitz inquires, opting now to scream into my ear. “Sure,” I shout back into his, worried that my breath is probably as bad as Donald Sutherland’s at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
“They have great truffle fries here,” he shouts. “Want some of those?”
“I’m not against truffle fries,” I scream, trying to let go of the death-breath paranoia. A pretty waitress is in front of Kravitz, and he orders tequila shots and fries.
I sniff the air — it’s loaded with perfume, emanating from the dozens and dozens of beautiful girls.
“It smells really good in here,” I scream.
“Really?” Kravitz screams back.
“It’s all the perfume from the pretty girls.”
“You have a sensitive nose.”
“I guess I do. Did you read the book Perfume?” I ask, referring to the German novel about a serial killer who’s obsessed with scent and kills women to claim their odors.
“Yeah,” he screams. “I loved it. But I didn’t see the movie.”
“That guy from Perfume would go crazy in here. He’d have so many pretty girls to kill.”
Luckily — after making a comment like that — the tequila arrives, halting conversation, and Kravitz generously prepares a shot (with lime) for me. He raises his glass. I raise mine. We clink. We drink. More shots arrive. I’m drunk by the third one, and Cameron Diaz and John Mayer are in the banquette next to us. Two beautiful girls are dancing in front of Kravitz and me, like girls at a strip club, except that these girls are dancing for free. We drink again, and I toast: “To all your friends!”
There are now more girls dancing just for us, or rather, just for him, and two have sat down, one next to him and one next to me. We’re squeezed in close and my knees are touching Lenny Kravitz’s knees, as if we’re old pals. I find this to be endearing — he’s a sweet guy being kind to a journalist with bad breath, bad teeth, bad hair, and bad debt.
“You like this place?” shouts Kravitz.
“I feel like I’m in Saudi Arabia!” I reply, happily. I’m no longer insecure, but I’m tipsy with a rock star in the kind of club I’ve never been to before, and Cameron Diaz is dancing again, and she’s not even the prettiest girl around.
And the girls come and go — models and actresses from Brazil, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, Japan, France, and New Jersey. Some of them sit and talk with Lenny, and if the girls come in pairs, then one of them talks to me. They’d rather be talking with Lenny, but I must be his friend, they reason, so I must have something to offer.
At some point, I meet a girl with a name that sounds like Samitra, and so I cry out, “Nice to meetcha, Samitra!” and Lenny laughs. Then a Russian girl is doing some kind of amazing belly dance really close to him, and her stomach is exposed, and her rear is a thing of beauty, and Lenny is dancing in his seat, and then she switches to me and is putting that rear right in front of my chin, and Lenny laughs again and says, “What’s that look on your face?”
“It’s my bachelor-party look,” I scream. “Where I act like I’m really cool, but I’m really not! This girl is amazing!” She looks over her shoulder at me and smiles and keeps rotating her rear, mimicking the movements of the earth and the sun, all the things that spiral and are infinite, like the swirl of a beautiful girl’s fingerprint on a martini glass which she puts down just before kissing you.
Lenny wrote about this bar on his new album in the song “Dancin’ Til Dawn,” and he got it just right:
“She takes her time as she approaches me / Then she gives me the sign as she moves her behind / That only God would design… / The night is young, GoldBar’s the place to be.”
So we sit there dancing in our seats, knees touching, the girls in front of us, and then I say, out of the blue, “By the way, I’m Jewish, too.” It must be the tequila that makes me blurt that out, along with some insane wish to spend more nights like this with him, but Lenny takes it in stride and says, “That’s cool. I’m half-Jewish.” Which of course I know.
Then Lenny goes to the bathroom, and a blonde Danish model, who looks like Tiger Woods’ wife, is sitting next to me, and we’re watching Cameron Diaz dance with John Mayer.
“I wish I had the courage to ask her to dance,” I scream.
“You should,” screams the model.
“I can’t,” I scream. “You ask her to dance. She’ll dance with you.”
So the Danish model goes up to Cameron Diaz, and they’re talking, and then the model points at me, and Cameron Diaz looks over, and I astrally project myself onto the ceiling, like I did when I was a kid during tense family moments. I mentally disappear for a few seconds, and then the model is sitting next to me, and I shout: “What did you say to her?”
“I told her that you wanted to dance with her, and she said she would. Why didn’t you get up?”
“I astrally projected myself onto the ceiling.”
Then Lenny is back, and he says to me, “Give me some titles of books to read, man. I need some new books.”
“Have you read Raymond Chandler?”
He shakes his head no.
“I thought maybe you were referencing him with your new song ‘The Long and Sad Goodbye.’ Chandler has a book called The Long Goodbye. I’ll get you a copy. You’ll love Chandler; he writes all about L.A. in the ’40s and ’50s.”
“Cool,” Lenny says.
The Danish model gets up, whispers in my ear, “I’m going to an after-hours bar. You and Lenny should come if you want. I’ll be leaving in about ten minutes.”
“Okay, I’ll find you,” I say. It’s nearly 3:30 in the morning; we’ve been at the club for more than three hours.
A Brazilian girl starts dancing in front of Lenny, and then he says, “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to get some sleep.”
And somehow, telepathically, the gigantic bouncer knows that Lenny wants to go, and he’s leading us through the club, and then we’re in the car, and Lenny tells the driver to take him home and then me. We get to Lenny’s building, shake hands, and I say, “Thanks for a great time, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” I’m to formally interview him the next day, and he smiles good-bye, and then the door is slamming and the driver is taking me to Brooklyn, to my home, and I think about the Danish model and the after-hours club, but I’ve lost Lenny Kravitz, my access to power, and so as if I were a male Cinderella, it’s time for me to leave the ball.
I arrive at Lenny’s penthouse apartment around four in the afternoon. The elevator opens up right into his home, and he gently asks me to take my shoes off. The place has wall-to-wall thick brown carpeting, and it feels good beneath my stocking feet. Right in front of the elevator is a clear glass piano, and next to that, there’s a glass staircase leading to a second floor. On the wall behind the piano is a mural, a large painting of Lenny’s mother, the late actress Roxie Roker. On the opposite wall, enclosed in four individual frames, are pieces of clothing from Jimi Hendrix (a vest with wool fringes), Bob Marley (a jean shirt), John Lennon (a simple gray tunic), and Miles Davis (a strange, lipstick-red shirt).
Lenny leads me to the back of the spacious loft, and we sit on a dark brown couch, which he designed. (He has started his own interior design firm, what he calls his “day job.”) A fire is going in his marble fireplace, and white imitation elephant tusks emerge from the carpet like phallic love symbols. In the corner, on a shelf, I see Lenny’s four Grammys, and on another, there’s a pair of shoes that Muhammad Ali wore during his last fight, in the Bahamas in 1981.
The lights are off, we’re sitting in shadows, and Lenny’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt and a necklace with the Star of David. I give him two novels, The Long Goodbye and David Goodis’ Shoot the Piano Player, which I brought because I thought he might like the title.
Jonathan: What keeps you making music after 20 years? I still get inspired reading novels, and so that makes me want to write a new novel, to try to do what the author did, to create that same effect.
Lenny: Same thing with me. I listen to the masters, and it makes you want to keep going in that direction, to get your expression as pure as you can get it. Just keep elevating it. I’m always in search of that new sound, that new song.
Jonathan: I always tell my writing students to mimic the great writers, and that when they do, the writing will still come out as their own, since it’s channeled through their spirit.
Lenny: Exactly. One musician listens to another musician, and you get inspired and then you do your thing, but it’s yours.
Jonathan: What do you think about how the music industry has changed?
Lenny: It’s really interesting. We created technology that enabled people to steal music really well; however you slice it, if you didn’t pay for it, you’re stealing it. You don’t walk into a restaurant and take food off the table. Bottom line is that it’s changed and won’t change back. There’s far less money, and the record companies are tripping out.
Jonathan: Does it bum you out that there’s a lot less money?
Lenny: I’ve done well. I’ve been blessed, I’ve taken care of my family, improved our lives. If I don’t make another dime, it’s good. In the Bahamas I have one of those Airstreams [trailers] on the beach; I tell people that if that’s all I have left, I’m living like a king.
Jonathan: I have a son –
Lenny: How old?
Lenny: Get out of here.
Jonathan: It’s true, and your daughter is…
Lenny: Just turning 19. She’s at college.
Jonathan: How often do you talk to her?
Lenny: Five times a day.
Jonathan: Wow. That’s cool.
Lenny: Yeah, that’s the kind of relationship we have.
Jonathan: Well, what I was thinking was this: My son was working construction for a guy, and the guy said, “You’re half Jewish and half not-Jewish — that means half of you will work for a living, and half of you won’t.” Now, it’s kind of a weird thing to say, but my son got a kick out of it — he saw it like he’s a superhero with these two sides. So do you see your two sides, black and Jewish, as having given you different things?
Lenny: I just see it as a richness, not that one side gave me one thing or another. At the end of the day, it taught me that I didn’t understand prejudice. I didn’t know my dad was white until the first grade, when somebody told me.
Jonathan: Were you bar mitzvahed?
Lenny: No, but I went to Hebrew school. My parents left it open for me.
Jonathan: What do you consider your religion?
Jonathan: You go to church?
Lenny: I don’t go to church so much, the way my life is, but it’s in me every day. I grew up between a Woody Allen movie and a Spike Lee movie, like Crooklyn. I grew up in the neighborhood where that movie is set, Bed-Stuy, and I grew up in Manhattan.
Jonathan: In Hollywood, they’re always saying something like “It’s a cross between Blade Runner and Terms of Endearment.”
Lenny: Yeah. “Lenny Kravitz is a cross between Crooklyn and Annie Hall.”
Jonathan: I heard you were working on a movie, Barbecues and Bar Mitzvahs.
Lenny: That’s the project I promised my mom I would do just before she died. It’s something I’m going to direct.
Jonathan: Is it about your childhood?
Lenny: There are some flashbacks to childhood, but it’s about a guy who’s looking to settle down. He’s been a player his whole life, and he makes this conscious decision at his parents’ anniversary celebration that he’s got to get married, have a family.
Jonathan: There’s a song on the new album, “Will You Marry Me?” Is that something you want? Marriage?
Lenny: I definitely do.
Jonathan: Is that song directed at one person, and when the album comes out, you’ll sing it for her?
Lenny: No, not for one person. But it’s ready to go. Somebody will use it to propose before I do.
Jonathan: I read a transcript of your interview with Charlie Rose in 2004, and you said you were celibate. Are you still?
Lenny: Yeah, three years.
Jonathan: [Incredulous] Really?
Jonathan: Are you doing some kind of meditation to help you with this?
Lenny: No, just a promise I made until I get married.
Jonathan: But it must be hard. From what I saw last night, women make themselves available to you –
Lenny: Where I’m at in life, the women have got to come with something else, not just the body, but mind and spirit.
Jonathan: Have you come close with someone?
Lenny: Yeah, but it’s difficult the way I move around. You can’t blame your life, but all the work I do, it’s difficult.
Jonathan: When you date women and you tell them you’re celibate, does that makes them even more ardent?
Lenny: Usually trips them out, but that’s the way it’s going to be; I’m looking at the big picture.
Shortly after that, we stop talking, since Lenny has to get ready for his daughter’s birthday party that night. So we shake hands and say good-bye. Walking through SoHo, I think about how he has been keeping it in his pants and putting it all into his music. The love revolution hasn’t yet found its way into his own bedroom, but I imagine that someday, he will let down his guard and the world will be restored to balance. I mean, if Lenny Kravitz isn’t getting laid, even if it’s his own choice, then something is terribly wrong.
Now Watch This:
Lenny Kravitz – “I’ll Be Waiting”