Tim Gunn Spills the Beans on Martha Stewart's 'Dismal Daughter' and 'Lovely' Padma Lakshmi
By Nicki Gostin Posted Sep 28th 2010 07:39PM
Gunn recently talked to PopEater about manners (or rather, lack thereof), the kerfuffle over his comments about Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Martha Stewart, taking the high road, his suicide attempt and J. Edgar Hoover's cross dressing.
You've got a great story in the book of watching Anna Wintour being carried down flights of stairs by her bodyguards.
I have to add that that story alone would never have made it into the book. There's no lesson there. The only reason it appeared is because of the aftermath of having it published in a newspaper and having four days of bullying from her to retract it. She wouldn't accept responsibility for her behavior. I never went after her character.
Isn't that weird? She knew it was true -- why try and make you say it wasn't?
I honestly don't know. It's revisionist history. I will say this about people in the fashion industry: When their behavior is consistently of a particular type, they don't remember anything. It's just the way that they are. For me as an observer, it's like having shock treatment.
You write a lot about manners. It seems a lot of people don't have them anymore.
I don't know what happened. I wanted to present an antidote to all this bad behavior.
Doesn't the fashion industry encourage bad behavior?
I'd like to think that the tide has changed and that people are becoming more respectful and more self-aware about behavior and the importance of treating people respectfully and behaving responsibly because this industry is such a huge collaboration. You need to be respectful of other people, and generally respect has a positive tone to it.
In the book, you mention that Padma Lakshmi ('Top Chef') didn't return e-mails but you did it as a blind item.
I did originally say her name, but the legal department at Simon and Schuster took it out. But let me tell you this fabulous story. She sent me the loveliest, longest handwritten letter and this gorgeous box of chocolates, saying, "Oh my God, I'm so embarrassed. I'm so apologetic." It was lovely of her. I was completely disarmed.
So, you can be had for a box of chocolates?
I laughed out loud when you described the dysfunctional relationship between Martha Stewart and her daughter, Alexis.
You know, I have great respect and affection for Martha Stewart. It's really about her dismal daughter. When I was at 'The Daily Show' two weeks ago, the producers told me that when Martha was there, she came with Alexis and that's exactly how Alexis was in the green room. She had this profanity-laced Tourettes. She was saying all these horrible things about her mother, who was right there, and her mother wasn't responding at all, acting as if she was deaf.
Alexis calls her mom a "f**king bitch" in front of her?
Yes! It's the most peculiar thing in the world.
You also have a great story about when you were visiting the FBI as a kid with your dad, who worked for J. Edgar Hoover, and he took you in to visit Vivian Vance from 'I Love Lucy,' but you were pretty sure it was Hoover in drag.
I never ever would have dredged up that memory had it not been for when all the stuff came out about Hoover's cross dressing. Simon and Schuster did a lot of work looking at the guest logs of the FBI, and there's no record of Vivian Vance being logged in, and they spoke to her two biographers and have no information about her visiting the FBI or Mr. Hoover.
It's pretty shocking to me that you weren't paid for the first two seasons of 'Project Runway.'
Until I met my agent, I didn't know anyone was paid. I met my agent at an awards dinner. We were both sitting at a 'Project Runway' table, and he asked me who represents me and I said, proudly, "No one. Why?" And he said, "Well, who's negotiating your contract?" I said, "Well, I just sign whatever is put in front of me."
You know the producers must have laughed when they shut the door.
I'm sure of it. At the dinner, they started yelling at my agent to stop talking to me and they were yelling to me that I didn't need an agent.
Another thing that upset me is that you've been single since 1982. Are you looking?
I'm interested. Am I looking? No. I would never say I'll never get into another relationship, but I will share this with you: I feel like I haven't graduated from psycho analysis because I choke when I feel like I'm approaching intimacy with another person, and it has to do with reliving the breakup of my first serious relationship because it was so horrible. It was just excruciatingly horrible, and I had to keep working with the guy. But things happen for a reason. If we'd stayed together, I would never have moved to New York.
You also write about your self-loathing when you were a teen.
I think that's what led to my suicide attempt. I was disgusted at who I was afraid of becoming. Today, there are so many more role models for gay teens and young adults. I'm proud to say I hope I'm one of them.
If you can impart one lesson from the book, what would it be?
Take the high road. You will never regret it. No matter how much anger and strife you feel you're facing, no matter how badly you want to lash out, don't do it. You'll never regret taking the high road. There isn't one single time that I've lashed out that I haven't deeply regretted it.
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