On April 12, 2010, journalist Gene Weingarten won his second Pulitzer Prize, joining a select group of repeat winners that puts him in the company of Robert Frost, Bob Woodward and John Updike.
Two days later, he was on Twitter doing an interview about poop.
I got lucky. I was presumptuous enough to tweet at the former Washington Post writer — who has a pretty hefty turd as his Twitter avatar and describes himself as an “enthusiast of excreta-related humor” — and ask him if he wouldn’t mind a 10-minute interview for the site. He agreed — and was very gracious, especially for someone who just won the highest award in his profession (AGAIN) and was being bombarded by someone literally asking about shit for what ended up being a few hours. He’s a class act, and here’s our unedited conversation, contained entirely in Twitter direct messages.
@geneweingarten: if we can do it entirely in twitter direct messages.
@rabdill: Much appreciated. Congrats, btw; read your story last year, been passing it around since. So… why are you so enthusiastic about excrement?
@geneweingarten: Not all excrement. Just human excrement. Because it is a reminder of our hubris: We pretend we are above the beasts; clearly, we are not.
@rabdill: We differentiate ourselves a little, don’t we? Bears use a field, people use a room next to their bed. Do you have an all-time fav restroom?
@geneweingarten: It was in a hotel room in Paris. It had a bidet. It is impossible to use a bidet without laughing.
@rabdill: HA I’ll take your word for it. You just won your second Pulitzer — lots of people read your work in the john; do you write any of it there?
@geneweingarten: I often get good ideas as I’m falling asleep; never have a pen around so I go to the bathroom and scrawl ’em on the mirror, in soap.
@rabdill: I’m letting my curiosity about journalism get the better of my assignment to write this for a bathroom website… thank you for humoring me.
@rabdill: What was the best thing you ever wrote on the mirror? Did it pan out? Also, what U.S. president do you think had the most regular B.M.s?
@geneweingarten: I bet Nixon’s poops were like clockwork, one every 12 days.
@geneweingarten: As to the mirror, probably the biggie was when I came up with the idea of Autobiography as Haiku — readers explain themselves in 100 words.
@rabdill: I dont think I’ll ever get to know where Nixon shat— do you have any experience with secret restrooms? Places you WISH there was a restroom?
@geneweingarten: There should be one in the observation deck of the Washington Monument. (I think we’re done now, okay?)
@rabdill: Absolutely. I really appreciate your time, especially on something as goofy as this. Take care.
So there you have it. Gene Weingarten, the first journalist to ever win two Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing, giggles when he uses a bidet and would love to use a restroom at the top of the Washington Monument.
The restroom connoisseur in me is wholly satisfied by this post, but the journalism nerd in me is not, so here are some links.
This is the article that won him his 2010 Pulitzer Prize, a beautifully written piece looking at parents who accidentally kill their toddlers by forgetting them in hot cars. He says in this Washington Post chat that he is “a leading proponent of stories dispassionately searching for the truth, and then passionately telling the truth,” and he really does it here.
This is his editor’s brief behind-the-scenes story of how the article came to be.
This is the hilarious (and ridiculously well-reported) story that won him his first Pulitzer in 2008 — he planted a Grammy-winning violinist (with “a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes”) in a Metro station and had him play his $3.5 million violin for rush-hour traffic.
I could keep going, but I feel like people might start calling me out on my man-crush.