Seven Questions for…Mike Sager

The “Esquire” writer-at-large talks about dirty dancing with Joan Baez, Tom Wolfe at the beach and respect from Junior Seau.

Mike Sager has been called "the beat poet of American journalism.” He’s the bestselling author of three collections of work—Scary Monsters and Super Freaks, Revenge of the Donut Boys, and Wounded Warriors-- and a novel, Deviant Behavior. A former “Washington Post” reporter and “Rolling Stone” contributing editor, he has served for the past decade as a writer-at-large for “Esquire.” Many of his articles have been optioned for film. He is at work on a second novel and a non-fiction book. He lives with his wife and son in La Jolla.

Ron Donoho: Describe the type of writing you do for “Esquire.”

Mike Sager: A little bit of everything, from celebrities (Jack Nicholson, Angie & Brad) to deep literary anthropology (wounded Iraq vets, a crack gang, a 650-pound man, the Crest Fire, Brooke Burke).

RD: Who's your favorite celebrity you've interviewed?

MS: There have been several. I spent three months with Roseanne Barr—an actual genius, though she had a tendency to call me an idiot… The last night Rick James was alive, he was partying, and reading aloud from my story about him in Scary Monsters and Super Freaks… Two decades ago, when Joan Baez was still a cougar and I was a young “Rolling Stone” correspondent, we enjoyed a memorable dirty dance, and then roared off into the night on my motorcycle.

RD: How long does it take to write a novel?

MS: The first, Deviant Behavior, took 10 years. I hope the second, High Tolerance, will be quicker.

RD: What's your favorite place in San Diego to spend a weekend afternoon?

MS: Windansea is the beach featured in Tom Wolfe’s “The Pump House Gang,” a classic collection by one of my writing idols. I discovered my love for the beach even before I realized the connection.

RD: Who's your favorite San Diego athlete, and why?

MS: Junior Seau. I coached his kid. Junior was the first person to ever call me “Coach Mike.”

RD: What is the city of San Diego desperately lacking?

MS: Great food and people who can argue about ideas without getting their feelings hurt. Those great four-hour dinners you have in NY or D.C.—they just don’t happen here.

RD:If your life was made into a movie, who would play you?

MS: Whatever bald, ethnic-looking guy with bags under his eyes is famous at the moment.

Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.

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