February 16, 2006

"There are so many difficulties to being ... a rock star."

35-year-old Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo lives in a plain dorm room at Harvard:
Shortly after the [80-city] tour ended on Dec. 22 with a sold-out show in Tokyo, the band's singer and songwriter, Rivers Cuomo, settled into a tiny, monastic dormitory room at Harvard, from which he will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in English.

... He lives alone, in a modest 14-by-9-foot room with the standard-issue desk, bureau and bed, to which he has added only a map of the world, taped to the wall, and a small Oriental rug bought for less than $200 by Sarah Kim, his personal assistant. "Most people wouldn't expect a rock star to be happy living in a dorm room," said Ms. Kim, "but he is."...

"There are so many difficulties to being a musician, and being a rock star," he said in late January as snow fell outside his room in Sarah Whitman Hall, a red-brick 1911 dorm with arched doorways and wooden banisters smoothed by time. "Here I can escape the pain of my profession. The truth is, I hate to perform. I get such bad stage fright, it makes me physically ill."
Cuomo's austerity includes abstaining from sex (though he says he's getting married soon, to a person he won't name). He meditates twice a day -- lately, in the dorm closet, underneath the sweaters. He's returning to Harvard after attending in the mid-90s, which was after his band became popular:
During one hiatus from school, from mid-1998 to 1999, he moved into an apartment under a freeway in Culver City, Calif.

"I became more and more isolated," he wrote in an essay for a Harvard dean, explaining his long absence. "I unplugged my phone. I painted the walls and ceiling of my bedroom black and covered the windows with fiberglass insulation."
Normally, material like that doesn't work well in an admissions essay.

28 comments:

Dave said...

Loser.

No wonder Harvard took him.

me said...

He is a returning student. I'm sure he's done more in a day than Dave has done in a year.

SippicanCottage said...
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MadisonMan said...

I am frighteningly out of touch with the Rock Stars of today.

Jennifer said...

Normally, material like that doesn't work well in an admissions essay.

Heh. I suppose it depends on what type of institution one is endeavoring to gain admission to.

Mark Daniels said...

I've been intrigued by Weezer's music and own two of their CDs. I think that Cuomo has always wrestled with what's really important in life and has apparently not yet found many answers. But unlike others in similar straits, he keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Going back to Harvard to live a relatively austere life while he gets his degree is probably not the route most rock stars would take. Even though I take exception to some of the stuff he's written lyrically, I think he's one of life's laudable searchers. That's kind of cool.

Weezer's most recent CD is absolutely infectious and tons of fun.

Mark Daniels

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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TidalPoet said...

He's a loser because he's eccentric and a recluse who happens to be able to sing?

Jeez. Give the guy a break Dave. At least he isn't buying his education, or even worse, snorting coke while chasing it with Jack Daniels all the while telling us how horrible it is to be a rock star.

I don't even like the Weezer.

Dave said...

BTW: What's the story with a name like Rivers? Thought only River Phoenix could pull that off.

SippicanCottage said...
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Freeman Hunt said...

He sounds like an idealistic college sophomore. Cute. And then I remember that he's a 35 year old man. Not so cute--more like Peter Pan.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

Covered the windows with fiberglass insulation? There are much more effective sound dampening materials which are not itchy dust magnets. Then again, maybe he's into minor acts of self flagellation. I wonder if those sweaters are wool?

Patrick Martin said...

Does he send his personal assistant out to buy Ramen noodles? That's austere, man.

Elizabeth said...

Meditating in the closet, under the sweaters? That's pretty funny: Lying on the floor, he's come undone.

But eccentricity and stage fright isn't so surprising. XTC doesn't tour b/c of the lead singer's stage fright; Carly Simon fights with it, too; Kate Bush is afraid to travel.

As for returning to school in his 30s, Tommy Lee would be proud of him.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Sippican, that's me, bringing harmony. Your quote has me running to my iTunes folder. What a luscious song.

I'd be running to my iPod, but at the risk of whining, I have to repeat: I lost my iPod. I'm still in shock.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Sippican, who knew all we'd need to be in accord was a good mixtape? Thanks; your suggestions are perfect.

sonicfrog said...

Let's see.

His life: Last tour was Japan, 6700 miles away. Has stage fright yet makes his living doing just that. Lives in a dorm. Lonley and a reclusive.

My life: Last tour was Bass Lake, 40 miles away. Like being on stage, paid or unpaid. Have house including dog in yard and 2 car garage. 10 year aniversary with sonic-mate coming up in July.

All things being equal, I like my life better.

PS. Sip, I love Squeeze. I have played "Is That Love?", "Trust Me to Open My Mouth", and "Black Coffee in Bed" in various bands. For my next project, I want to do "Pulling Mussels", "Hour Glass", and a hopped up version of "Good-bye Girl". And also do more Police and Peter Gabriel.

Wade_Garrett said...

This is an interesting story. How many people go from dropping out of a community college to graduating from Harvard? Could he have done it if he wasn't rich and famous? Would Harvard have admitted him? The on-again, off-again nature of his college career is very unusual for Harvard. The flexibility to take classes when you have the time to take them and vary up your credits and start school and stop again is usually only something you get at very large state universities.

I'm always a little sketpical of celebrities who go to big-name Ivy league schools. When I was at Yale, there were a couple of celebrities there, and some of them took it very seriously, lived in the dorms, studied in the library, went to the football games and frat parties, and in general acted like normal students. They were great to have around; they made life on campus far more interesting. Others seemed to be at Yale simply because they wanted to have something to talk to Leno about when they were promoting their next movie. One actress, for instance, was dating Derek Jeter at the time. New York is several hours away, and she missed a lot of class.

Most normal people go to college so that they can get a job. Celebrities and rock stars not only already have jobs, but earn a lot of money doing them. I salute any and all of them who want to go back to school to round out their educations. Despite all of his starts and stops, that seems to be what Cuomo is doing. Too many of them do it just to get a name on their resume, and that sort of bothers me.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Sippican,

Barry Manilow is atop the charts even as we speak. What's wrong with this world?

Palladian said...

Terry, you remind me that when I was a graduate student at Yale Claire Danes was there studying psychology. One of my fellow students lived in the same building as her, a non-descript place on I think High Street, full of graduate students. I never met her, and don't know how serious a student she was, but an amusing thing happened involving her and the fellow student who lived in her building. At the time she made some derogatory remarks to the press about her experiences filming a movie in Manila ("Manila smelled of cockroaches with rats all over, and there is no sewerage system and the people do not have anything-no arms, no legs, no eyes.") that caused some uproar. My friend, who was Filipino, asked her to be in one of his video art pieces and she agreed. The video consisted of her saying she was sorry for her remarks about the Philippines and him saying "I forgive you, Claire." It was highly amusing.

sonicfrog said...

Sip said:

"sonic- I defy you to try to sing "Pulling Mussels From a Shell" while playing the bass. "

I have tried it, and yes it's hard. Now try "Demolition Man" from the Police. I had heard it a few times before I listened to it closely, and then realized "Crap. That's just nuts". The bass line and the vocals are completely out of sync.

Wade_Garrett said...

Palladin - Claire Danes was in my year. We must have been in New Haven at the same time.

Kirk Parker said...

SippicanCottage, uhhhh, did you say "bass player"???

Yeah, we're infested.