Carnie Wilson chats about her new Christmas album, reality TV, trees, and why people who oppose same-sex marriage suck. Really suck.
It’s a busy time for Carnie Wilson. When I called her at the appointed hour for this OutSmart interview, she had just returned to her home on the West Coast from Nashville and was leaving the next day for Las Vegas, all in service to the best-gal-pal media identity she has deftly parlayed into a successful pop-culture career.
At that moment, she was in line at her local Starbucks, where she had just purchased a mid-afternoon snack of a regular drip coffee and a slice of banana bread.
“I’m going to have two bites, and then I’m going to throw it out,” Wilson promised, ever mindful of what too many calories can do to her high-profile battle of the bulge.
“I really shouldn’t be here, but today is one of these days where I just want two little bites of banana bread and a sip of coffee, and I’ll be happy.”
With or without benefit of banana bread, Carnie sounds quite happy in general. After shedding the bulk that labeled her “the fat chick” of that mega-popular ’90s recording group Wilson Philips, she went on to host her own television talk show, record two solo albums, author three books, and generally become the go-to girl ready to liven up a celebrity reality or interview show with her ingratiating persona and salty banter.
It’s reasonable that she should be surrounded by all things celebrity. She is, of course, the daughter of Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the Beach Boys, the groundbreaking, multi-harmonied, ’60s pop group. This month her father is one of five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, the 30th annual national celebration of the arts (televised on December 26), along with pianist Leon Fleisher, actor and writer Steve Martin, singer Diana Ross, and film director Martin Scorsese.
“I’m really excited for him,” Carnie says of her father with more than a little awe in her voice. “It’s funny—Elton John called him about a week ago and said, ‘You know, it’s a shame I got [the Kennedy Center honor] before you. You should have gotten it before me!’
“They’re just such good friends, it’s really neat.”
Before heading to Vegas, Carnie chatted with OutSmart—while simultaneously balancing her cell phone, her banana bread, and her coffee—about what keeps her sane and sober, what keeps her busy, and what really, really sucks.
Nancy Ford: Christmas means a lot of things, but two things specifically, to me: good music and good food — way more that two bites of banana bread!
Carnie Wilson: [Laughing] Oh, Jesus! Well, I love to cook, and I love to bake. I’m really serious about it.
What are some of your favorite holiday foods that you prepare?
Every year I like to make a really nice cranberry sauce that has just fresh cranberries and sugar and orange zest and water and lemon juice. You make it from scratch—it’s so good. And I just love to make the stuffing. That’s my thing.
I also make a really great green-bean casserole dish in the crockpot with canned green beans, cream of chicken soup, and cream of mushroom soup together. And then you layer it with a shitload of cheese and dried basil, salt and pepper, and French onion. Oh man, oh my god!
You are a traditionalist, Carnie Wilson.
Yes, I am. I am. And of course, I have to make my macaroni and cheese, and I have to make a bread pudding that I’ve been perfecting for the past two years.
What keeps me sane is cooking. Honestly, it keeps me sober. I’m in recovery for three years, so I cook for my daughter. I cook for my husband. I cook for everybody that comes to my home. I actually find reasons to cook at night. I’m a workaholic, so at night when I should be sleeping, I’ll go in the kitchen and start baking, and then I’ll give food to people. No matter, if I’m doing an interview for Entertainment Tonight or if I’m going in to have my nails done, everybody is going to have some of my food every week.
Lovely! You can tell you really have passion for cooking and preparing food.
Yes, I’m going to open up a restaurant one of these days. It’s going to be called Shut the F–k up and Eat. [Laughs] I’m kidding! I’m kidding!
[Laughs] What’s your advice on how to avoid overindulging during the holidays?
I know, I know. Who wants to, right?
[Laughing] I’m going to wear a muzzle that says “Merry F–king Christmas…
…Now shut the f–k up and eat!”
Yeah, exactly! For overindulging…it’s so hard. This is what I say: Know yourself. Know your kryptonite. Know your weakness.
For two days before Christmas, have a 500-calorie diet where you’re just eating vegetables and chicken. Or for breakfast, have a couple of scrambled eggs. No snacks, lots of water. For lunch, have a salad with grilled vegetables and chicken. For dinner, have a piece of salmon and grilled vegetables, and maybe a Weight Watchers snack bar at night.
Just take two days of really clean eating before [the holiday]. And then, if you have the willpower to resist, just cut everything in half. So instead of having a 3,000-calorie day with all the stuff, maybe you’ll have a 1,000- or 1,500-calorie day.
That way, you still get to have all the taste pleasure involved.
Yes, it’s smart if you don’t mind having a little portion of everything. Have one plate of food, and don’t go back for seconds. Drink a ton of water before the meal so you’re full already. That’s about the best advice. Otherwise, I say just enjoy it and diet a couple of days before.
So, besides keeping busy with the Christmas album and cooking and every thing else, what’s coming up for you?
Oh boy. I just got back from Nashville. I was part of a show for the CMT channel called Gone Country. It was the best experience of my life—just absolutely the most fun, and the most challenging. There were a lot of issues in my face, like alcohol. I was watching certain people’s behavior and I saw a lot of myself.
The best news is that I wrote a song with two of the top country writers in Nashville. I didn’t win, but I came close. But I’m really happy with the song that I wrote, and I got to meet some great people. We had a performance at the Wild Horse Saloon, and there were almost 500 record executives there. It was the largest gathering of record-executive people in history.
The show is going to be huge. It’s like Anna Nicole meets The Simpsons. It’s just wackadoo and great. It was spearheaded by John Rich from Big & Rich. I just loved the whole thing. I lived in a house with Maureen McCormick, Bobby Brown, Dee Snider. It was a blast!
We’re actually going to buy a house in Nashville. We love it there so much.
We will definitely be tuning in to that. I’m glad we’re talking about this, because I read recently that one of the members of Big & Rich made a comment about gay marriage. [In an October 2007 interview with The Tennessean, Big & Rich’s John Rich said, “I think if you legalize [gay marriage], you’ve got to legalize some other things that are pretty unsavory. You can call me a radical, but how can you tell an aunt that she can’t marry her nephew if they are really in love and sharing the bills? How can you tell them they can’t get married, but something else that’s unnatural can happen?” Rich later retracted his remarks, pointing to his Christian upbringing as the reason for his earlier statement.] Are you serious? I didn’t know that! Ooh, that sucks!
Yeah, it does.
That sucks! That’s not cool. That makes me feel sick to my tummy. I’m glad I didn’t know this when I was there, because I definitely would have talked to this guy. That sucks!
Yes, well, what with OutSmart being a gay magazine, we especially thought it sucked pretty hard. What do you think — is it a country thing? Is it a Nashville thing, saying something like that?
Oh, I don’t know. It’s probably his upbringing or just a mindset. Who knows? I can’t speak for anyone that would say something like that. I just know, for me, that my mind and heart is so open to love. Whoever somebody wants to be with, or whatever they want to do in their life as long as that person is true to their heart and is happy, I believe in it. Unless it’s a killer or a murderer.
I mean, how can you, how can you—? I’ve never understood prejudice against gay people, fat people, white, black, yellow—anything. I don’t get it! It’s just not part of my chemical makeup.
Well, thank you for that.
Well, it’s the truth! I think also it’s your upbringing and who you’re with your whole life and what you’re exposed to. A lot of people are just scared of something. They can’t open their minds.
You know, if you look outside, you see a million different-color trees. Why would you alienate one color tree? It doesn’t calculate in my brain. I’m on my street in front of my house, and I’m looking at all the trees. There are pointy ones that are tall and dark green. There’s a palm tree. There’s a weeping willow. There’s a pine tree. [Laughs] You could really get into that analogy, you know, but it’s just true!
My best friend in the whole world is gay. She’s a hardcore lesbian! [Laughs] I love her so much, she’s my heart and my soul. I’ve been through so much with her.
I don’t know—I just love people. I’m a people person.
That’s obvious. Well, thank you so much for your candor. I think it is something our readers will be very, very happy to learn.
Oh yeah! I mean, oh god, I wish I was a gay man! Jesus Christ!
[Laughs] Why is that?
Because I love dick! I love men! I think I’m a straight woman, I’m a gay woman, and I’m a gay man, all in one!
The best of all worlds, Carnie. The best of all worlds.
[Still laughing] I know!
Nancy Ford interviewed Judy Collins for OutSmart’s November issue (“Both Sides, Now and Then “).
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In addition to being a wife, mother, daughter of a pop culture legend, singer, and reality-TV-show star, Carnie Wilson has published two memoirs, Gut Feelings: From Fear and Despair to Health and Hope in 2001 and I’m Still Hungry: Finding Myself Through Thick and Thin in 2003. She followed the autobiographies in 2005 with To Serve with Love: Simple, Scrumptious Dishes from the Skinny to the Sinful, an inspirational lifestyle cookbook written with Cindy Pearlman (all three books from Hay House).
Here Carnie shares one of her favorite holiday recipes with OutSmart, and with you.
Carnie Wilson’s Berry Berry Delicious Bars
2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 jar raspberry preserves
2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer on a medium speed until the ingredients are light and fluffy, for approximately 30 seconds.
Separately, combine lemon glaze ingredients.
Add the egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour, one cup at a time. Mix in the pecans, then the white chocolate chips.
Reserve one cup of the dough. Pat the remaining dough into a 9-inch-by-9-inch nonstick metal baking pan, pressing it down to make a crust about a 1/2-inch thick.
Spread raspberry preserves onto the dough, leaving about half an inch around the sides as a border. Gently dot the layer of preserves with the reserved dough. Bake for 30 minutes until dough is a light golden brown.
Let cool, then drizzle with lemon glaze. Slice into bars. Serves 1–25, depending on individual eating disorder.
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You might call Carnie Wilson’s newest album, Christmas with Carnie, a family affair.
Her husband, Rob Bonfiglio, penned one of the selections, “Warm, Lovin’ Christmastime,” in addition to providing background vocals on the peppy, seasonal tune. That’s her not-quite-two-year-old daughter, Lola Sofia, voicing “Merry Christmas, everybody!” at the tail end of “The Christmas Song.” And three of the tunes on the CD are re-do’s from The Beach Boys Christmas Album (1964).
“I grew up with my dad’s version of ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘White Christmas,’” Carnie says. “And when I was looking for the songs, the ballads really got me. ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ is just a killer! I just knew that that was one I had to do.”
Bravely opening with “Merry Christmas, Darling,” the tune made famous by the pitch-perfect Karen Carpenter, this selection of pleasant Christmas favorites is sure to make your Yuletide gay — or, at least, gayer.
Big 3 Records (www.big3records.com).