“It’s an enchanting lifestyle,” Michael Musto, veteran gossip columnist for the Village Voice, said of his existence, and it’s no joke.
A former features editor of the New Utrecht High School newspaper — the Nuhs — and a Bensonhurst native, Musto began writing his weekly column, “La Dolce Musto,” 22 years ago, and says he loves everything about the job.
“I get to go out every night and meet the most incredible people and then write whatever I want about it,” he said.
Not a bad gig for a self-described introvert who spent much of his childhood at the Walker Theater on 18th Avenue, losing himself in movies.
“I’m probably the only Italian-American only-child in the world, so I grew up very internally,” he told GO Brooklyn. “I would write notes to myself — movie reviews on index cards as a cathartic way of expressing myself because I didn’t talk. I fantasized a life where somehow I would make a living in show business.”
And that’s exactly what he’s done. After attending Columbia University — “I studied ancient civilization, but all I cared about was Cher” — and working as a freelancer writer for the Voice, Musto scored his job the old-fashioned way: by submitted a writing sample to the paper when he read about an opening for a gossip columnist.
“I had no idea that there would be this job that was so ideal for me,” he said.
“It started as a third of a page in the middle of the paper and now it’s a full page first thing in the paper. It keeps growing like a fungus.”
Last month, he released a collection of columns — he’s written over 1,000 — also titled “La Dolce Musto,” that features work spanning his entire career and includes everything from celebrity items to personal stories like his discovering and dealing with a seizure disorder.
Most of Musto’s work, however, leans further towards catty than considerate — and that’s why his peers love him.
“He’s snotty, he’s catty, he’s very New York and he has a wry way of looking at things,” New York Post doyenne Cindy Adams told GO Brooklyn. “Michael is a one-of-a-kind. There is nobody that has the gizzard of Michael Musto because not all of us have had his background, his ability to speak or his sense of the ridiculous. Michael is 6-foot-1, but his mouth is 6-foot-5.”
With this wicked wit, Musto has had his share of run-ins. Rosie O’Donnell, whose sexuality Musto delighted in questioning, famously called him “a gay Nazi” on an episode of “Larry King Live.” And obnoxious actor Vincent Gallo, whom Musto called “a very minor celebrity,” has left threatening messages on his home machine (a Gallo trademark).
But the supposedly slighted celebs never win: Verbal sparring has little lasting effect on Musto, who says threats come from “illiterates and ingrates.”
Even after all of their clashes, former nemesis O’Donnell has found her way back into his good graces. “I like her now. I feel that I attacked her for so many years for being in the closet, now that she’s out it would be absurd to go after her.”
As far as taunting closeted celebrities, Musto does so with abandon. When pressed, though, to dish about local stars, he shot back, “Nobody in Brooklyn is gay now that I moved out!”
Famous for his toxic tongue, Musto has also blossomed into a second career as a talking head. Often appearing on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” this visibility has brought “La Dolce Musto” to a new audience and re-connected him with his (very) old one.
“Now I get emails from people I went to high school with when they see me on TV — this equals success in the eyes of most people,” he said. “Being a writer wasn’t enough. When they see your face on the tube it means you made it out of Brooklyn.”
He “made it out” — and is no fan of the new hip Brooklyn.
“When people started finding out Brooklyn was trendy, it seemed bizarre to me,” he said this week. “My family and roots are there, but what’s good about Brooklyn isn’t what’s trendy; it’s real people, great restaurants and culture.”
With no plans to quit what he calls his “zig-zaggy man-about-town whirl around the New York culture dome,” Musto’s longevity has only increased his resolve. “I’ve been around long enough now,” he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
No trip back to Brooklyn would be complete without a few stops at his favorite haunts. Michael Musto shares his borough faves with The Paper:
2637 86th St., at Avenue U, Bensonhurst, (718) 265-9400
“An amazing all-you-can-eat Chinese spread, with everything from cheese-stuffed clams to chocolate ice cream.”
Villabate Pastry Shop
7117 18th Ave., Bensonhurst, (718) 331-8430
“Sumptuous, fresh pastries and cakes. Just don’t go on a holiday when there are lines around the block.”
37 Main St., at Water Street, DUMBO, (212) 604-9074
“A grand place for all kinds of literary happenings.”
2172 86th St., at Bay Parkway, Bensonhurst, (718) 266-8666
“Friendly service, great food. After a few visits, you feel like family.”