For the first book, my friend and fellow Bostonian Sam Potts designed the cover to look like a Dr. Bronner's bottle, a mishmash of the parts of a book that was, itself, a mishmash. One of the things that got mishmashed in was an old Library of Congress photo of a rat catcher in New York City in the early 20th century, back in the time when ferrets caught rats, and the rat catcher was holding up a ferret.
By the time of the second book, when I was on television a lot, the publisher was really keen to make my photo a big part of the cover of the book. I said, "It's not really about me, except for the fact that it's all about me. The front of the book is supposed to look like a Dr. Bronner's bottle, and there wasn't a picture of Dr. Bronner on there."
They were getting really pushy and I said, "Look, I will have my picture on the cover of the book as long as you are willing to pose me in the same way as that rat catcher and have me holding up a ferret." They said fine. On the second book, there's a picture of me holding a ferret.
In the first book, I was using the ferret-holding rat catcher to illustrate the history of the famous confidence game, the thieving ferret, where someone would come up to you on the street and say, "Let's use my ferret to steal that diamond. All I need is a little seed money for some ferret food."
For the second book, I wanted to have a picture of myself holding the ferret with a caption that said, "New ferret, same con." For the third book, I wanted to have a picture of myself on the book, but this time, because it's about the hilarity of mortality, I wanted it to be a ferret skeleton. Once I figured that out, everything really fell into place.
Any time you have a ferret skeleton, the picture's pretty much going to fall in place around it. The glasses were a gift from a famous musician friend and glasses collector, John Roderick. I knew that once I was going to be the deranged millionaire and sitting with this ferret and having this photo taken, I knew that I wanted to take it at the Chateau Marmont, which is the alternate dimension that the Apple ads allowed me to enter, this space of total luxury. And hanging out with famous people — particularly in the backyard of Bungalow Three, which is where John Belushi died, and they have these huge palm fronds. And because I was, in certain ways, a deranged millionaire, I commissioned a very talented photographer to meet me at the Chateau Marmont with a ferret skeleton that I had ordered special from Skulls Unlimited.
So what you're seeing is not just the image of pure, decadent debauchery and ridiculous deranged whim — it is suffused with debauchery.
WERE YOU DOING WHIP-ITS LIKE BELUSHI? No, I was sober.