Rather have a bottle in front of me

Tom Waits is featured on this week’s American Routes public radio music show (archived herereal audio link). There’s a great interchange where you can’t tell if Waits is totally screwing around with the host, or just being himself. Here’s the clip (10 second ogg):

Q: I don’t want to misquote you, but I think I saw you once said something like “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
A: Oh right right right…
Q: Very succinct and poetic line.

A: Mmm… Um, I read that on a bathroom wall.
Q: Oh — did you really?
A: Uh huh. Yeah.
Q: But it strikes me it’s also somebody that sang that at that time that maybe — drinking was probably pretty important to you at that point?
A: Oh, well, I haven’t had a drink in like fourteen years.
Q: But… I… when you said that, my guess would be that you probably were, unless you were totally playing a character…
A: Oh, yeah, I was drinking in those days, yeah, sure.
Q: Yeah, yeah.

Apparently, the “lobotomy” quote, often attributed to Tom Waits, is actually written by Atlanta physician Randy Hanzlick. But it’s entirely plausible it got to Tom Waits via a bathroom somewhere. I’d believe it.

Update: a commentor points out that Hanzlick himself actually got the quote from graffiti on a bathroom wall. The plot thickens.