“I’m going to go away for a while,” Moby posted on Instagram on Thursday, after the techno producer, once pop oddball icon, and now memoirist has been embroiled in an avalanche of bad press involving discrepancies regarding his characterization of an alleged relationship with actress Natalie Portman in his new book, Then It Fell Apart.
Along with issuing another public apology to her, he also called off the U.K. portion of his book tour. Beyond the fact that he grossly mishandled both his depiction of his relationship with the then-18-year-old Portman as well as her subsequent denial of it — she remembers the experience far differently: a 30-something Moby creepily coming on to a recent high-school grad — perhaps it’s for the best that he won’t be talking about the book for a bit. A sequel of sorts to his 2016 memoir Porcelain, Then It Fell Apart is exhaustive in its tour of Moby’s fraught childhood and adolescence, as well as its chronicling of the flirtation with superstardom he enjoyed after the release of his 1999 landmark album Play.
At times, it’s an uncomfortably brutal read, from recounted instances of child abuse and suicide attempts to an absolute ocean of drug and alcohol abuse. And Then It Fell Apart is also knowingly dishy, as Moby name-drops with abandon throughout. (If you took a shot every time he mentions that David Bowie was once his neighbor, you’d be dead a hundred pages in.)
Below, we’ve compiled a compendium of the most eye-catching and revelatory celebrity encounters included in the book. People mentioned like Bowie, Hillary Clinton, and one of Vladimir Putin’s daughters (!) were left out of this list for the simple reason that for every one interesting story included in Then It Fell Apart, there are five brief anecdotes that amount to little more than people saying “Hello” to Moby. Not very interesting — but, seriously, read this entire book if you get the chance.
The called-into-question anecdotal section that’s seemingly destroyed the promotional life cycle of Then It Fell Apart reads even more confusingly in the book itself than the public back-and-forth between Moby and Portman that has followed its publication suggests. On Moby’s part, there does seem to be some small level of awareness about the creepiness of it all — “I was thirty-three and she was twenty, but this was her world,” he marvels when recounting them allegedly facing the paparazzi together — but there’s also descriptions of them allegedly “kissing under the centuries-old oak trees” while she was studying at Harvard, as well as him allegedly laying down next to her in her dorm-room bed until she fell asleep.
Here’s where things get even more confusing: After pages and pages of Moby claiming the two were dating, he writes, “For a few weeks I had tried to be Natalie’s boyfriend, but it hadn’t worked out.” Later in the graph, he seemingly acknowledges whatever went on between them wasn’t a “real relationship,” cemented by her telling him that she’d met somebody else. His complicated, truth-bending perspective on whatever actually happened between the two of them makes more sense in context of the book, which often focuses heavily on his arguably dysfunctional issues with relationships, intimacy, and sexual behavior.
In the midst of the book’s Portman-“relationship”-recounting sections, Moby mentions meeting Aerosmith at an after-party following the MTV Video Music Awards where Steven Tyler allegedly asked Moby straight-up, “Are you with Natalie Portman?” Moby replies, “I guess so,” to which Tyler replies, “She’s so hot” before immediately walking away. Again, they’re talking about a teenager. Gross!
Months after Moby and Portman “break up” but, according to him, remain “still friends,” she allegedly brings the cast of the Star Wars prequels to one of his shows in Melbourne. There, McGregor, after a few rounds of Champagne and vodka, hits the town with an almost-completely-nude Moby. “At least put on a towel,” his long-suffering tour manager Sandy begs after Moby “decides … I should be naked” during the pair’s Melbourne pub romp …
… During which Moby finds himself urinal-to-urinal with Russell Crowe, who inexplicably and very Russell Crowe–y starts screaming at Moby after shoving him against a wall, before his attention drifts and he leaves the restroom. “Fuck, mate, I wouldn’t worry about it,” McGregor tells Moby. “He yells at everyone.” It’s true!
One of the late Clash front man’s pet peeves, apparently, was listening to his own music. “Oh, fuck no!” Moby describes him exclaiming during an all-nighter in Ireland, when a reveler had thrown on London Calling after Moby had just finished ripping a mirror off of a wall in order to watch himself having sex with a music publicist (yes, really).
Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson introduces Moby to the Rolling Stones singer at a party, minutes after Mobes (a nickname that he repeatedly recalls friends and family referring to him as throughout the book) is washing down another hit of ecstasy with Champagne. “Do you know it?” Branson asks Jagger on Moby’s behalf regarding his blockbuster album Play. “Oh, I’ve heard it,” Moby recalls Jagger “flatly” stating, before immediately parting ways. Ouch.
“I didn’t know what to say to Morrissey,” Moby recalls on meeting the irascible, now-pretty-much-just-racist indie scion during a Hollywood bender with Christina Ricci. Who can relate? He goes on to offer Moz some Champagne, which he turns down and promptly departs from his company — but not before asking Moby to consider producing his next album. Given that this anecdote is recalled from 2000, that “next album” would’ve been 2004’s You Are the Quarry, which is possibly the last classic album from Morrissey’s solo career — so, not a huge loss, then.
The bender with Ricci continues at an after-hours hang sesh at the Standard Hotel bar in Hollywood, where photographer David LaChapelle introduces Moby to Holly Woodlawn, the late Andy Warhol muse and trans model who inspired Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” “Can I kiss you?” Moby asks her, to which she replies, “Of course, darling,” and Moby goes in for the kill “open-mouthed.” “You can’t kiss Holly the way you would your great-aunt,” he attempts to explain his aggressive greeting.
Ricci doesn’t play nearly as big of a role in the book as Portman (whose own role can be considered miniscule in the overall scope), but the way she’s mentioned is similar. “We’d tried dating for a few weeks the previous autumn,” he explains, before stating that his “panic attacks” — a regularly referenced issue throughout the book in relation to his issues with emotional intimacy — kept them from forming a real relationship. (In discussing the aforementioned Hollywood bender, he also mentions “kissing” Ricci, the consensual nature of which is left up to the reader to decide.)
“Andy Dick’s here” might be three of the most horrifying words in the English language. In this instance, they’re uttered by none other than Charlize Theron, an acquaintance of Moby’s hanging around after the San Bernardino County date of his self-curated Area:One touring festival in 2001. Dick pops up here and there throughout Then It Fell Apart, typically with strippers in tow; in this anecdote, however, add an extra O to that pops. “Poop! Poop! Poop!” is the chant that Moby walks into, as he finds Dick squatting over a vegan cake his managers got for him, attempting to squeeze out a turd onto the animal-friendly confection. (Sidenote: If you poop on a vegan cake, is it still vegan?)
Not so much a seedy anecdote as an utterly surreal one: the art-world provocateur and longtime Moby pal is the one who informs him via telephone that the 9/11 terrorist attack is playing out and easily witnessable from his Manhattan rooftop. (As it happens, Moby’s birthday is also September 11, thus making for a rather loaded memory.)
Christ, we can’t get a minute of pop-cultural solace from this guy, huh? Some context: Moby and one of his longtime friends play a game called “knob-touch,” in which they take their dicks out of their pants and see who they can touch with said dicks at a party without said knob-touched partygoer noticing. Very chill, normal game of groping to play, especially when you’re at a party in 2001 with the future president of the United States of America and your friend tells you to go touch him with your dick. Moby gives it his best shot and, in the end, “think[s]” he was successful.
“Moby, you are a powerful and attractive man,” Moby recalls the long-tongued Kiss bandleader and alleged abuser telling him after returning home from a performance in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics. “Oh, huh, I wouldn’t say that,” Moby also recalls answering, before Simmons mumbles and walks away.
After promising on-again-off-again girlfriend and Teany business partner Kelly Tisdale to spend a month on tour embracing sobriety, a chance encounter with Pantera (along with Tommy Lee, who appeared in the video for the 18 single “We Are All Made of Stars”) fucks it all up. Specifically, it’s a Hells Angels member that gets Moby to pick the bottle back up after two weeks of abstention; later, late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell suggests they start a band called “The Sober Fucks.” Having read this entire book chronicling Moby’s struggles with addiction, it’s not as funny of a joke as Dimebag thought.
Eminem’s beef with Moby in the early 2000s was well-documented at the time (Em’s nasty “Without Me” dig should immediately come to mind). But it’s still more than a little unnerving to read Moby recounting being seated behind Em at the 2002 VMAs to have the latter turn around and say to him, “You’re dead,” before punching Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on camera and handing Moby a scribbled drawing of Em choking him out.
But Moby’s Eminem feud — as well as fading critical and commercial performances post-Play — undoubtedly hurt his image with other, cooler musicians. “Moby, you know I like you, but just too many people are hating on you right now,” Moby recalls the former OutKast member telling him at a VMAs after-party the same night as Moby’s near altercation with Em.
Of all the people to run into in Russia, Moby briefly collides with fellow animal-rights activist and human pincushion Steve-O, alongside his Jackass co-star Johnny Knoxville. After drinking in a hotel lobby near photos of George W. Bush (Russia — weird place!), the last thing Moby recalls before blacking out is Steve-O taking off his pants and participating in what may or may not have been a one-man dance contest.
Lana Del Rey
Or, more accurately, Lizzy Grant, whom Moby went on a brief date with before collaborating with her later. If you’ve kept up with music news in the last month, you’ve probably heard this one already, but just for emphasis: “Moby, you know you’re the man,” she tells him after receiving a tour of his multilevel apartment, before elaborating: “as in ‘Stick it to the man.’ As in the person they guillotine in the revolution.” Moby claims that he decided to “take it as a compliment.” Sure, why not.
The use of all-caps in conveying Lynch’s speaking style is perhaps the most evocative stylistic choice Moby makes in Then It Fell Apart, as he relays having soup brought to his room by the enigmatic filmmaker and artist while attending a meditation retreat: “THANKS FOR COMING, MOBY!” You can just hear it in your own head, can’t you?
The final third of Then It Fell Apart is even darker than its opening chapters detailing suicide attempts and child abuse, as Moby goes through a particularly destructive phase of alcohol and drug abuse; undoubtedly, one of the more horrifying anecdotes contained within involves Moby hurling a sharp knife at the novelist and Bored to Death creator, the tip of which smacks against Ames’s college ring and barely misses stabbing him completely. Ames is understandably upset; Moby is, given the degree of which he’s under the influence, mostly unfazed.
“Everyone has to vote because Republicans are fucking subhuman devils and need to be fucking destroyed.” That’s what Moby drunkenly slurred into the microphone at a fundraiser for the now-Democratic presidential hopeful before the 2008 election, and even though he expresses hope that the senator would “smile and applaud my progressive courage and profanity,” she instead quickly recoiled and departed her own event.