Checking In with NYC’s Sarah Rose & Joel Derfner
GayCities New York Editor, JJ Keyes, met Sarah Rose on a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg and checked in with Joel Derfner for the down-low on their new show, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, premiering December 7 on Sundance Channel.
Names: Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner
Hometown: Chicago and Charleston, SC
Current City: New York City
Relationship Status: Best friends! Unless you mean relationships with other people—the kind that involve clothing on the floor—in which case Joel is boringly married but Sarah’s accepting applications.
Favorite City: New York
Spotted on a Saturday Night: Chat ‘n’ Chew in Union Square–making fun of people we’re jealous of.
Tell us about your show, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys
GWLBWLB is the first reality show to explore the friendships between straight women and gay men. The show follows us and three other “couples” in an attempt to find out just what it is that creates the special bond between these two.
How did you become involved with this project?
We slept with the right people. Unfortunately, we’re not sure which of the people we’ve slept with those were. So we’re really no better off than we were before.
What are the other cast members like?
They’re fabulous. It’s not like Real Housewives or The A-List, where everybody knows everybody else. We’ve started getting to know each other recently, during promotional events. There are some amazing first degrees of separation from people much more famous than any of us—high-ranking politicians, pro-ball players, and so on—but you’ll have to watch to find out more. Really we’re just hoping somebody releases a sex tape.
When did you guys meet?
We met in the dining hall at Harvard. There we discovered a common love for caloric junk food and a joint fear that no one would ever love us. After we lost the dining hall weight, many someones ultimately loved us. Joel even married one of them. This has done nothing, by the way, to alleviate the joint fear that no one will ever love us. Don’t ask us to explain.
You guys both have books out
Sarah’s book is called For All the Tea in China, and it’s about how the British Empire literally stole tea from China. It was the greatest theft of intellectual property in history—imagine somebody stealing the formula for Coke. The book has everything—drag, pirates, you name it—and Guy Raz of NPR’s All Things Considered called it “the perfect combination of scholarship and storytelling.”
Joel’s books are Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Happened Instead and Gay Haiku. Gay Haiku is a great bathroom book or hostess gift, while Swish is in the vein of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, but even gayer, if you can believe that. According to Bitch magazine, “just when the wry observations seem a touch too clever, he offers an insight so naked, so yearning, it’s nearly impossible not to be won over.”
Joel, Elton John wrote the intro to Swish – how did you get to know the Piano Man?
One night I got an e-mail from somebody saying he was Elton John’s personal hairdresser and Elton wanted to talk to me because he’d loved Swish. I was like, yeah, right, Elton John’s hairdresser e-mailed me. But the next day I thought, well, my narcissistic need for approval from all corners has already led me to make myself as stalkable as possible, so it’s not like it could do any harm. And the next day I picked up the phone and the voice on the other end was like, “Hi, it’s Elton.” And I was like, “Uuuuuurrrsgljkrycnsycq.”
How did you guys make it to New York?
Upon getting fired from his job as a Harvard RA after attending a party thrown by his underage students that got busted by the cops (thank God they never found out he’d bought the alcohol), Joel came to the Big Apple in 1997 to get an MFA in musical theater writing from NYU. Sarah lived the life of an itinerant journalist in Hong Kong, covered the transfer of the colony from Britain back to China in 1997, went to philosophy grad school in Chicago, made her way to Miami, briefly, came to NYC for a miserable newsroom job, and then got a gig working for Ed Koch, who fired her on September 12, 2001.
What’s the best part about that hood?
The Upper East Side is intensely manageable: Sarah’s mom, whose mobility is limited, has her doctor, her bank, the library, the grocery store, and her daughter all within a three block radius. It’s the most civilized place to be old in America. Crown Heights is amazing because it’s staying multi-racial, at least for now. It’s the most integrated neighborhood in New York.
Best spot in New York City that nobody knows about?
Joel’s ass. Oh, wait, that nobody knows about? Hmm. We’ll get back to you.
What is your favorite restaurant and why?
Sarah: Le Bernardin has the best bargain food in the city—no, really—if you go for lunch on a weekday. The set menu is better than any dinner menu anywhere else on the planet. The wine list is chock full of affordable bottles that taste way out of your price range—just like the meal. Go there now.
Joel: Taco Bell. I’m a food Philistine.
Sarah: I have a soft spot for the bone marrow at Blue Ribbon because it makes me feel like a caveman.
Joel: The Popover Café on 87th/Amsterdam because when they catch me sneaking my fluffy white dogs in in their little dog bags they don’t kick me out. They also have amazing popovers.
Top three bars in New York City?
Joel doesn’t drink; at a party he attended freshman year of college thrown by the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals he got so drunk on Bishop’s Punch—one part fruit juice to two parts bourbon—that he had dry heaves the next day and since then alcohol turns his stomach. Furthermore bars make him loathe himself even more than he already does. So he has no idea whatsoever how to answer this question. Sarah will drink champagne anywhere, any time, as long as it’s good champagne. Frequently it’s pink.
Best place to get your culture on?
Joel: The Strand bookstore.
Sarah: Any local NYPL branch. What NYC lacks in research libraries it compensates for with neighborhood branches.
Perfect Sunday in the city?
Joel: Eating chocolate peanut-butter truffle ice cream while watching Golden Girls marathons.
Sarah: Eating chocolate peanut-butter truffle ice cream while watching Star Wars: A New Hope marathons.
Ideal New York “staycation”?
Joel: Two words, Spa Castle
Joel, we hear you used to work at Splash
Back when I was in good enough shape to be a go-go boy I danced there a few times; I was disappointed because the raids kept happening on nights I wasn’t there. Also, let me tell you, the showers for the shower show are fucking freezing.
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