Magazine article The New Yorker

Patriarch

Magazine article The New Yorker

Patriarch

Article excerpt

The ever-expanding Wainwright family of singers will reunite on Tuesday night, at the Highline Ballroom, on West Sixteenth Street. "It's going to be Roche mania! McGarrigle madness!" Loudon Wainwright III, their wayward patriarch, thundered the other day in that raucous, sardonic voice that you hear on his records. He widened his eyes in mock dread at the prospect of one of his exes, Suzzy Roche, and various ex-in-laws, including the singers Maggie, Terre, and David Roche, as well as three of Loudon's four children--Rufus, Martha, and Lucy--all onstage together, performing songs from Wainwright's new CD, "High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project." For the Wainwrights, who constitute a kind of singing Glass family in an imaginary musical conceived by Wes Anderson, that would be like Thanksgiving.

On a hot August evening several weeks ago, Wainwright played a smaller gig at the City Winery, on Varick Street, for which he arrived early. (He's always punctual.) The Winery show was one of a hundred he will do this year, his forty-first as a professional folkie. "And I do it all by myself," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, which was sunburned. "I don't have a roadie. I schlep my Martin D-28, just me and my guitar going through airports, from here to there." Is he a happy troubadour? "I mean, I like to do the shows, but the rest of it is Willy Loman time." Wainwright and his third wife, Ritamarie Kelly, live in Los Angeles, mainly to nurture Loudon's acting career. He had minor roles in Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" and a few other movies, and he has a small part as Barry, the town crank, in the NBC TV series "Parks and Recreation."

Wainwright found refuge from the heat of the day in the Winery's underground cantina. ("I'll have a barrel of the Spanish red!" he exclaimed jauntily, on seeing the casks.) He wore a summery version of what he calls the "preppie psycho-killer look," which has been his trademark since his one hit, "Dead Skunk (In the Middle of the Road)," ruled FM radio, in the summer of 1973--khakis, a mint-green shirt, a rumpled seersucker jacket, and a straw-colored Monroe hat. He said he had been unhappy in prep school (St. Andrew's School, in Middletown, Delaware), but he valued the experience, because, he said, "it gave me a point of view. …

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