During the aughts, writer-performer Mike Albo's literary career seemed to be scaling new heights. He'd ratcheted up a robust clip file at powerhouse pubs (The New Yorker, New York magazine, GQ and Details), penned two novels (Hornito; The Underminer) and two plays (Sexotheque; Three Women in Indecision) and was becoming something of a celebrity in NYC's art scene with his satirical one-man shows. Then, in 2007, he scored the ultimate: a biweekly retail column ("Critical Shopper") in the New York Times, which paid him a steady sum in an industry that's infamously unsteady.
Life was good... until a perverse curiosity grabbed hold of him in 2009: What might it be like to go on a supremely tacky press trip to Jamaica?!
"It was the crassest junket ever," he laughed in a recent interview with The Slant, rattling off the trip's corporate sponsors -- Trojan Condoms, Cold-Eeze, Pom Wonderful, H&M, Starbucks and Gillette! "The bukaki of a junket," he joked.
What ensued forever floats through the blogosphere: The Times defended Albo on the grounds that he was a freelancer and not on assignment for the paper, then abruptly changed course amid a flurry of negative press and gave him the ax.
In 2011, Albo "fictionalized" this experience in an autobiographical novella fittingly titled The Junket, which he adapted into a play, premiering at Dixon Place in Manhattan on November 1.
From his shabby-chic apartment in Brooklyn's Park Slope, Albo talked about the struggles of living a freelance life, the hypocrisy of the media elite, and the high personal cost of pursuing a life of letters.
Read the Q&A at The Slant: There's Always More to the Story