For Jonathan Van Meter, home is where his heart is
I arrived early for my interview and as I rang the buzzer on Great Jones Street, I immediately apologized for this heinous New York City sin. A voice purred, “Oh no, your timing is exquisite.”
I was instantly at ease. I suppose most people who enter the sprawling loft shared by writer Jonathan Van Meter and his partner, editor and photographer Andy Young, are made to feel at ease. They moved into the big space in May, and in some sort of stroke of magic the loft actually looks out over the Bowery Bar, the site of their first date. On a June night more than six years ago, the two locked eyes, later loins, and then hearts and have been locked up, in a good way, ever since.
Jonathan Van Meter is the fortyish, chiseled writer of fabulous features on incredible women for Vogue. His story about Rene Zellweger graces the cover in December. The former editor in chief of VIBE, Jonathan has been writing about celebs and making them, I presume, more interesting than they are, for decades. This past summer, he published a book five years of research in the making, “The Last Good Time: The Notorious 500 Club and the Rise and Fall of Atlantic City.” The book wraps you up in the whirling world that was vintage Atlantic City with an in-comparable cast of characters from protagonist Skinny D’Amato, proprietor of the famed 500 Club, to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Kennedy brothers, and of course Marilyn.
“When Andy speaks Spanish, he becomes the person he is talking to and people can’t figure out how this corn–fed guy has become them,” Jonathan explained. “Andy is really a language savant. When he orders Thai food he hangs up the phone and is speaking like the guy he ordered from. It’s uncanny.”
When the elevator opens, right into the living room of the loft, there is a haze of smoke. Van Meter and Young are both unapologetic smokers and New York’s strict new smoking regulations have put a crimp in their nights out on the town, but they have adjusted.
“Oh we don’t go out much anymore because of the smoking rules,” Jonathan said. “We have people over and we cook, we smoke, we laugh. This apartment feels like the best bar.”
The pre-renovated loft was painted in “Life Saver colors when we got it, every pole a different flavor and the kitchen was black,” Jonathan related. Now the airy, white main room has a full-length ecru linen curtain that bisects the center. When inquiring minds ask, Andy, laughing, pulls back the drapes with great ceremony, revealing a huge soft bed with tight covers, Marine style, and a toss of pillows, Martha style.
“One of our friends thought that when we pulled back the curtain there was going to be some sort of sex show,” Andy said. “But you know there isn’t.”
Across from the bedroom arena is a ping pong table, another sort of staging area. Jonathan and Andy play a lot of ping pong and encourage guests to try their hand as well. To be in their smoky, snarky, intelligent presence is to experience a unique combination––a cocktail of equal parts Noel Coward and deep Harlequin romance. They so obviously adore each other, but an edge never leaves their banter. They are smart and accomplished but what are most endearing are the wonderful glimpses of couplehood that emerge.
“Part of why I think Andy and I are together is that we both come from families where both parents are still together,” Jonathan explained. “All our siblings get along, no one is freaked out about anyone being gay. I have two gay sisters and a brother and a straight brother. Andy has a brother who is a married Marine who resembles him to the extreme. We both love our kooky families. “
Van Meter and Young tell me that they watch the Weather Geek on CNN and then do their own imitations. If Andy calls from the glam Condé Nast building to say he will be home late and he inquires what Jonathan is doing, the response is often, “Oh I am just hanging out with my celebrity friends.” Now Jonathan Van Meter could be hanging out with anyone, but what he usually means is that he has finally indulged himself after a day of writing and is watching TV, reclining, and waiting for Andy to come home.
Sometimes, said Van Meter, “I tell Andy I am with my TV boyfriend Ashton Kutcher,” to which Young responded, “Sometimes I say Jonathan suffers from what I call lack–of– human–contact–syndrome.”
But Jonathan seems just fine with the human contact he gets from Andy, and he acknowledged the relationship in the introduction to “The Last Good Time,” even if the gesture did not go off without a hitch.
“The front page says just ‘To Andy,’ but, when I let him read the galleys, he didn’t have that page and there was an endless list of acknowledgments,” Van Meter recalled. “I really thanked anyone I have ever gotten help from, and Andy’s name was not among them. I was keeping it as a surprise.”
It was only later, after harboring some hurt feelings, that Andy saw Jonathan had dedicated the book to him.
“I’d rather be alone than have anything less than this,” Jonathan Van Meter said, in a parting remark responding to my questions about his relationship with Andy Young. “I think that it is a tragedy that more people don’t demand more of their relationships.”