"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?"... Paul McCartney; John Lennon
Wendy Williams is the real deal. Best known for her five-year stint hosting her own daily TV talk show -- The Wendy Williams Show -- her audiences (aka co-hosts) and fans think of her as the pop-culture Queen of 'hot topics.' The mother, wife, media mogul, entrepreneur, performer, best-selling author and TV host opens her talk show teasing her hot topics for the day, and then does the Wendy Hop (she walks in high heels like I do) over to her signature purple chair where she's not shy about how she really feels about every celebrity on the planet.
(If you think she's just like "us," you would be right. She and her husband watched the Fourth of July fireworks in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven sipping Slurpees for goodness sakes. Having met her in person several years ago back stage at the "Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years" taping, and speaking with her on the phone for our interview, I can tell you, first hand, she is the down-to-earth personality you hoped she would be.)
If you need your Wendy fix and you're wondering what she's really like off the air, you've come to the right place. The Huffington Post is here to help her celebrate the Big 5-0. We asked her a number of personal questions, including: does she have any regrets in life, what's a deal breaker in a friendship, has anyone refused to be on her show because of what she said about them in hot topics?
Oh, by the way, Editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington, who just turned 64, had a humorous chat with Wendy recently about (gulp!) aging gracefully. Watch them here.
Happy 50th Birthday! July 18 is a big day for you!
Thank you! Yes, it is!
When you turned 30, did you look at people who were 50 and think that they were old fogies?
Absolutely. Fifty has always been old to me until I got here. Then I look around and I see Vanessa Williams because she's a couple of years older than me, but I remember when she turned 50, I'm just like: 50 is really not your mother's 50 anymore. Courtney Cox just turned 50. She looks terrific. If anything, when women think of 50 as being old and they're the older version of 50, that's no longer in vogue to be an old 50.
How do you feel about turning 50? Is it a big deal to you?
I feel wonderful. I adore when somebody calls me ma'am because I don't feel old. In a million years I would never want to trade my 50-year-old self for 25. Those years were just so uncertain and such turbulence in my career life and love life and whatnot. Right now, I think 50 is fabulous.
Sandra Bullock turns 50 eight days after you do. Do you keep track of celebrities that are your age?
Yes, I do. I'm not talking about the ones that are over surgical-ized in the face and all that, but I use them as a reference point and a comparison point, like, gosh, she's got such a great body, why are my arms so flappy? Or, gee, she really looks old for 50. I do keep comparison point, but I find that I compare more with celebrities than I do with women in real life because in real life, 50 is just 50.
You have everything going for you at this stage of your life. When did you feel like you'd finally achieved your personal goals and your career goals? When did you look in the mirror and say to yourself, "I've made it?"
Probably during the 2nd season of our show. The 6-week sneak peek, that was a trial test. We were given one season. That was making it, but I was just so scared and uncertain about if the show gets canceled, what will I do? We're in our 5th season right now, but in our 3rd season, at the end of the 3rd season, we renewed through 2018. I feel like I've made it. I also feel like if the show were to go away, I'm confident enough that I'll be fine.
Television can be tough. Do you live and die by your ratings?
No. My husband is my manager and he's also one of the executive producers on the show. He gets the ratings every day. Every day, the ratings come in from the previous day. Of course, ratings is the name of the game in TV, but I can't concern myself with that. I can only concern myself with getting out there and just giving it my all for one hour a day and let the chips fall where they may. Fortunately, our ratings are up I think 25% this season. Our show has been doing really phenomenally well. People ask me, "What is the secret to that?" I don't know, but guess what, if I think about it too much, I'm going to screw up the formula.
I love your hot topics segment. You praise celebrities or you call them on the carpet when they misbehave. I love that you're so honest about how you feel about any given celebrity at any given time. When did you first feel comfortable about opening yourself up to being that honest?
I've always been painfully honest. When I was a little girl, I'd be the first one to say, "Is she wearing a wig, Mommy?" Of course, I had the radio career that spanned over two decades. My opinion became the signature and through that signature, I was wildly popular on radio. Then, when I got the telephone call about doing The Wendy Williams Show -- they had been spying on me my whole radio career -- and they said we want your opinion, I said I'll give it to you.
I feel very comfortable giving my opinion. Everybody talks about what's going on with Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. The only thing that makes our show unique -- because I'm telling the same story that everyone else is telling -- is that I have [my own] opinion.
I enjoy celebrity culture, but this show came along at a time in my life where I am so authentically Wendy that if I have something not so nice to say about a celebrity, they weren't going to invite me to their wedding anyway. I won't be inviting them over to my house. I have my life and I think if I get too close to celebrity culture, if I start hanging out with Jennifer Garner or go to lunch with NeNe [Leakes] after a show -- that is the death of [my] hot topics.
Have you ever had someone refuse to be on your show because you mentioned them on hot topics?
No, not that I know of. Here's the thing that I always say about hot topics and I remind the audience of this constantly... because I realize that when I'm sitting there and doing the hot topics, my eyes are popping out, my mouth is drooling and I'm telling this story with passion. I guess to some people it seems like I am enjoying celebrities when they crash and burn. No. That's not it. I'm a 50-year-old woman. I'm minding my own business at my house in Jersey, but when celebrities do things and it gets in the media, somebody's got to report it. Might as well be me.
Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person?
Glass half full... because I have a positive attitude. I was born to make people smile. That's what my mother and father have always said. When I was born, my grandmother, my mother's mother was dying. One life was sacrificed. She got a chance to hold me and she named me Wendy, as in Wendy from Peter Pan and then she passed away. The whole time that she was battling her colon cancer, my mother was up and down the turnpike from our house down to Jersey Shores to my grandparents' house in North Jersey. I was just a brand new baby, but I was bringing my mother a lot of joy. I know it sounds corny, but I am convinced that I am here to bring joy.
If you had a real crystal ball, what would you be looking for?
I would be looking towards the future to find out how certain business opportunities are going to work out. I would want to see what I'm doing in five years, where's my life at? I know my son is going to be graduating from high school at that point. I know my husband and I would like to then move into the city and I would like to do charity work and things like that, but I would like to see how that all works out for me.
Finish this sentence: I'm tired of hearing about...
Justin Bieber. I am so over him. Justin Bieber stays in the news for stupid, idiotic stuff. Justin is always doing something that requires the law to get involved.
Can you keep a secret or do you have to tell just one person?
Oh, my gosh. My mouth is a steel trap. People would find that to be very, very odd because I am the hot topics lady. You would think that I see gossip in real life. In real life I'm not friends with people who want to know what's going on with Celine Dion and [her husband] Rene. I just have normal friendships and I can keep a good secret -- a good one!
What's a deal breaker for you in a friendship?
I have a few deal breakers, but I'll just start with somebody who is too enamored with celebrity culture because I would be a disappointing friend. If you're looking to go to parties and a lot of celebrity culture, I'm not the one to be friends with. I'm so normal. I have so many deal breakers; telling secrets, if I can't talk to you and tell you something without you wanting to write a book or call the daily news, that's a deal breaker.
If you were able to wake up tomorrow in the body of somebody else just for a day, who would it be?
My husband because he deals with a plethora of things regarding my career, half of which I usually don't find out about until the last minute. He does the whole thing. He goes to the gym, he's a guy's guy, he helps with the show. I'd want to be a guy. I'd want to see is it easier moving through life as a guy. Do you get more accomplished as a guy? I wouldn't want to be another woman. I already know what that's all about.
Who would you like to say, "How do you like me now?" to?
Oh, please. (Laughs) That list is very, very long; ex-bosses from radio, an ex-husband... a stupid mistake I made when I was 28. I was married for five months. My ex-husband, ex-boyfriends, half the people I went to high school with. I was not that popular. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I have never been to a prom. My entire career has been built off of "I'll show 'em." Take a look at me now! (Laughs)
What would your fans be surprised to find out about you?
That I really am a homebody. I tell them, but somehow, I don't think that people can believe that. I cook three times a week. I'm not the best cook, but I put in the effort. I really do have some pretty old-fashioned values when it comes to life and how I approach it. You can't tell that when I'm in one of my short tight skirt numbers in the purple chair, but I have some pretty old-fashioned values.
What lesson did you have to learn the hard way?
It's still a man's world and it's very unfortunate, but it is. They still get more money than us for doing the same job in a lot of cases. I've learned that the hard way.
If you had the ability to hypnotize someone, who would it be and what would you make them do?
Oh, my gosh, all the guests that come to my show. I would make them talk to me straight. Stop hiding behind a publicist and telling the publicist: "Tell Wendy she can't ask this, Wendy can't ask that." I like a bit of transparency with guests, and I find that celebrities these days are so guarded. They don't want to talk about anything. That always makes me upset.
That doesn't make for a good interview. It makes for a terrible conversation and then my Wendy watchers are watching, saying: Wendy why don't you ask him about his new divorce and how he ran off with the nanny? I wish that celebrities would get more savvy and just understand you can say: "No comment, Wendy." But for me not to ask at all, that makes my Wendy watchers feel like I'm not on my game. Little do they know, I've been told not to ask by the publicist.
If you could have a do-over in your life to change something in your personal life or your career, what would it be?
I don't believe in do-overs. I feel that all of the mistakes that I've made whether it's substance abuse or whatever, all of the mistakes make me the person that I am today and I feel so comfortable out there doing the show. I've often wondered if I did not get involved with substance abuse back in the day, would I be involved with substance abuse now, in other words, a late bloomer to substance abuse? That's no good for anybody. You're just sitting out there in the hot topics chair drunk or high or whatever. No.
We have our son. He's 13. He knows my checkered past, but he only knows me as the woman he sees today, thank God. If I hadn't gotten married, then I would never know the pain of what divorce is like and making tough decisions. I have no regrets.
I watch your show most every day, and at one point you said that you didn't think Kanye and Kim would ever get married, but if they did get married, you would eat crow. So, last question, are you looking forward to eating that crow?
Here's the thing. I said if their marriage lasts longer than the 73 days that she was with Kris Humphries, on the 74th day, I have to eat crow. Unfortunately, on the 74th day of marriage, it'll be August and we'll still be on hiatus. When I come back in September, yes, I'm going to eat crow. I've actually had some chefs volunteer to make me the crow, including that whole cast of characters on the Food Network, that new show called "The Kitchen." They said that they'd come and cook the crow for me. I just imagine it being tough and gamey-tasting.
Follow Wendy on Twitter: @WendyWilliams
Follow Pat Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pat_gallagher