Looking Back

Adam Parfrey Saved My Life

May 15, 2018

In early 2013, when I was living as David Stein and working as a mainstream GOP operative, I was tipped off that my past was about to be “outed.” I knew that meant I’d soon be broke and unemployable. I called Adam, and I asked him if he could bend his “no revisionism” rule for an old friend. My life story was my only remaining asset, but I knew that no publishing house on earth would touch my autobiography. Adam signed me to a Feral House contract and paid me an advance that carried me through the rest of the year. He even offered me the use of his Washington guesthouse, should I need a private getaway in which to write (I told him that all I needed was vodka). I stipulated that the book would have to include lots of hardcore revisionist historiography, and he was fine with that. Over the next few months, as I began turning in chapters, Adam faced a mutiny at Feral House. Several high-level employees objected to my book, and they let him know it. He’d never dealt with that kind of an insurrection before.

Even in the face of his own employees’ complaints, he refused to back down.

He knew he’d take a loss on my book, and he did. There was a 100% blackout on advertising and reviews. But he took the hit as a favor to an old friend, and, perhaps, to prove to himself that he truly had no sacred cows after all.

It was through my book that I landed the job here at Takimag in January 2015. Suffice it to say, I owe a lot to Adam Parfrey.

We kept in touch over the last few years; I’d see him whenever he’d come down to L.A. But something about him changed after the 2016 election. He became obsessively, humorlessly anti-Trump. He started to resemble the petty moralists who in the past were so often his foils. Other people noticed this change too. He was no longer the bemused observer.

Adam always loved the idea of anarchy, of mixing things up, of overturning the old order. Even if he disliked Trump as a human being, or even if he disliked some of Trump’s policies, surely he could appreciate the absurdity, the surrealism, of the current situation. Surely he could embrace the chaos.

I’d planned to have a sit-down with him about that the next time I saw him. Which would have been this week, when he was scheduled to be in L.A. for a book reception.

It kills me that I’ll never have that conversation.

There’s so much more I could write about Adam Parfrey. His music, his collaborations with the likes of Jim Goad and Boyd Rice, his journalism career. But I wanted to focus on what Adam meant to me. He was not just a friend, but a guy who threw me a lifeline when I needed it the most.

I’m going to miss Adam Parfrey. And the publishing world—whether it’s willing to admit it or not—is going to miss him too.


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