Sleeping with the Emmy
Self-proclaimed D-list diva Kathy Griffin curls up with decidedly A-list success.
By Blase DiStefano
See also: Gag Order
At last month’s Creative Arts Emmy show, Kathy Griffin won a third consecutive Emmy award for her Bravo reality series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. When she accepted the award in 2008, she said,
“A lot of people come up here and they thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. He didn’t help me a bit…. So all I can say is, Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!” A major uproar ensued, to Griffin’s delight. This year the media whore hosted the Creative Arts Emmys (The Shmemmys, as she calls them, because it’s the D-list awards show to the A-list Emmy ceremony, and is taped and airs at a later date). She says that she would like to think she was offered the job because “I was so offensive and shocking last year that [the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences] thought maybe I could put this thing on the map.” They may still be off the map, but Griffin is rising above her D-list status with the publication of her memoir, Official Book Club Selection (Ballantine Books).
On the first page of the first chapter of the recently published book, Griffin uses the word “gay”…and proceeds to use the word over 60 times throughout the book. Not that we’re counting (okay, so we are counting), but that’s an average use of the happy word every five or six pages. In the Acknowledgments, she thanks “the entire gay community.” She says that “the gay community should know that frankly it has been a moral struggle for me even to acknowledge the heterosexual community in this book at all,” that she is slowly reaching out an olive branch to them, “even though I believe everything they do goes against the teachings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” You would think she is gay herself (she has actually said that she is a gay man trapped in a woman’s body).
Mix the Emmys, the book, and the media whore together, and you get a concoction that attracts some serious publicity. And with Griffin’s extremely busy itinerary, scheduling interviews was apparently monstrous. OutSmart was offered a telephone interview with a group of other gay papers, with each person asking one question. We held out for a one-on-one and were lucky enough to get it. The interview took place in mid-August, while Griffin was traveling from one city to another in Florida, yet she remained focused, funny, and totally in the moment.
I began the interview by telling Kathy that when I interviewed Joan Rivers for our July cover and asked her about Kathy, she replied, “Well, we’re very, very, very good friends. We just had dinner in New York. And I love her. I adore her.” Kathy immediately returned the compliment. Then I told her about my past week.
Blase DiStefano: I saw Joan in concert this past Friday night [August 7], and after the show she autographed the cover [of OutSmart] for me. Then I saw you and her on the Comedy Central roast on Sunday night. On Monday night I watched you and her on Larry King, and immediately following, I watched your D-List finale. I’m climaxing this week by interviewing you [on August 13].
Kathy Griffin: Yes, this is a Joan and Kathy sandwich.
[Laughs] I was going to say this has been a gay man’s wet dream.
[Laughs] Yes, it’s like a gay man’s tuna melt.
When I interviewed you 10 years ago, I asked you when and where you were born. After you answered the where, you said you were 33 years old, but you also said you were lying. So, it’s 10 years later. Are you…
So that makes me 43, and I’m still lying. [Both laugh]
When I interviewed you again in 2005, you said you were a complete militant atheist, and that got OutSmart on CNN.
So is there something you can tell me that could get us national coverage again?
Let’s make up something in the book that’s really revealing. Let’s say that I reveal in my new book that I’m lovers with Kate Gosselin from Jon & Kate Plus 8. Because I think the lesbians will like that as well as the boy gays. It’s very topical. And then you guys can break that story.
Part of the problem is that this interview isn’t going to run until October.
Okay, so we have to try to anticipate who I can be in an affair with in October. Whoo! Are there any Kardashians left? We could say I’m banging one of the Kardashians.
[Laughs] That’s a possibility.
Oh, we could also say that I’m sleeping with Bruce Jenner and that I think he’s actually had more face work than I have. So that’s got to be better for him than his Olympic gold medal.
[Laughs] Sleeping with Bruce Jenner should do it. Okay, now I know you’re nominated for Emmys [one for reality program—Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, and one for comedy special—Kathy Griffin: She’ll Cut a Bitch]. This interview is going to run after the Emmy telecast…
[Coyly] You mean, after I win?
Well, let’s pretend that you’ve already won.
Thank you. I’m doing The Secret.
Congratulations, Kathy, on your win. How does it feel?
Well, thank you so much. It feels so fabulous to win and, more importantly, to beat others. Because it’s not really an honor to be nominated, it’s an honor to beat others. So my life is motivated by trying to beat the people who are on Dirty Jobs, Intervention, and especially those f–kers at Antiques Road Show. Who do they think they are? I’m taking those bastards down. I showed all those antiques. F–k them with their knick-knacks. [Her real acceptance speech: “Well, well, well. Here we go again, f–kers. Here we go again. Hanks, Gandolfini, what the f–k! I’m not going to tell anyone to suck it. I would make love to this thing if I could.”]
Now let’s just say, in some parallel universe, you lose. What do you want to say?
Well, it’s tough for me to decide which deity to tell to suck it. I mean, there’s Jesus, there’s Allah. I don’t know if the scientologists have one deity or if I just tell Tom Cruise to suck it. Which, by the way, the gays have been telling him for years. So it wouldn’t exactly be original.
But you know, I try to offend as large a group as possible, and I try to offend a group with no sense of humor. So maybe I’ll be going for the birthers or the deathers, both of whom seem crazy. Or I could just say, “Suck it, Glenn Beck.” That’ll be fun.
That’s a good one. Now, speaking of awards, you won the GLAAD Vanguard Award…
[Dreamily] The GLAAD Vanguard Award. Okay, here’s some insider scoop. This is great.
They could not buy a celebrity to give me that Vanguard Award. Because, you know, celebrities don’t want to be associated with me. Nobody wants to be in that picture with me. So I hear from GLAAD that I’m getting the Vanguard Award. I couldn’t believe it. I was so thrilled. You know, I’ve been doing the GLAAD Awards and going for a gazillion years. And I always see at the end of the show, “Janet Jackson, it’s the Vanguard Award!” “Ellen DeGeneres, Vanguard Award!” So when they called me, I thought, “Oh my gosh, what giant A-lister is going to give me this award? Is it going to be Bette? Is it going to be Cher?” I mean, they couldn’t give this f–king thing away.
So then I get a call—I’m not kidding—three hours before the show, from T.R. Knight. And he’s like, “Umm, I just got this call. They want me to give you some award. What do you want me to say?” It was so ghetto. I had to write him my own intro.
He gave me the award, and he was so sweet about it. He was just a doll. So I will always be in love with that T.R. Knight, who, by the way, I still think I have a shot with. I think if I give him a large enough ruffie, I could have one night in heaven with that T.R. Knight.
I just want you to know that everybody turned me down. I mean, even people that were already at the awards show. Even people that were, like, already attending for an earlier award. Like, “No, I don’t think so. Not her.” The cheese stands alone, baby. The cheese stands alone. Poor T. R. Knight just didn’t know any better, so he volunteered to do it.
And you wanted to excite him by wearing a bikini?
I think I did. I just don’t think he’ll admit it yet. I think I saw a little wood down there. I really do. I just think his boyfriend would have been jealous and it probably would have caused an issue with them. But I’m telling you, he’s sexually aroused by me. Sometimes they don’t always know it yet, that’s all.
[Laughs] Sometimes…you know, there is that Kinsey scale.
Exactly. He might be a little bi-curious. And I’d like to be the first one to find out, damn it.
I did ask Joan where she was on the Kinsey scale, and she said she was “smack dab in the middle.”
Can you top that?
Well, yeah. First of all, I can tell you I’m a top. So there’s where I am. [Both laugh] In fact, I think we should just leave it at that. On the Kinsey scale, I’m a top. I’m a nice, clean and tidy top.
[Laughs] Now I’m sure you’ll be at the GLAAD Awards again next year for the Prop 8 episode of your show.
We worked hard on that episode. Didn’t turn out quite the way we wanted it to…
Prop 8 didn’t, but the show did.
Yeah, the show was great. What about my mother being your 89-year-old activist? She had the best sign of the whole thing [Gay Marriage: I’ll Drink to That].
With that episode, you just topped yourself. Well, there goes “top” again, but…
[Laughs] It was good, wasn’t it? And I can’t take credit for it, because I had nothing to do with the editing. When I watch the shows, sometimes I haven’t . . . actually, the last two episodes of this season, I haven’t even seen a rough cut. So I’m watching them on Monday nights with everybody else. I thought they did a fantastic job of putting that show together. But yeah, I’m proud of it, I’m proud of it.
The editing was great.
Well, you know what? It’s everything, in reality. Because we tape and tape and tape and tape, and you hope to get those moments, and you don’t know what’s going to end up on the show. An episode like that is very special, because you want funny moments but you want poignant moments.
And then also, stuff just happens. I mean, obviously things that we don’t plan for happen all the time on the show. And you know, they’re very good at deciding what to put in and all that other stuff. So I was very proud of that episode and I thought the editing all year has actually been very good.
How long does it take to put together an episode?
Believe it or not, even though the show, with commercials, is cut down to about 46 minutes, sometimes we’ll tape up to eight days for an episode. And sometimes we’re able to get an episode in four days, and then we kind of go back and do the sit-down interviews and stuff like that.
It’s always a mishmash. You know what? Sometimes we get it quickly and sometimes we don’t quite have it yet, and we go back and we do another location or we go talk to my mom some more and she always delivers, like freaking Dominoes. Each show is different. Sometimes we’ll think we have a funny episode and it will end up having kind of serious moments, like the one episode where my mom—we called it “The Bucket List”—that ended up being a real touching episode. We thought it was just going to be Don Rickles coming over.
It was fantastic.
Wasn’t it good? And my mom when she was on the balcony, like welling up? I didn’t even know that happened until I watched the show. She’s the best.
So tell me about the book.
Well, I really hope you like the book. It’s called Official Book Club Selection because I’m trying to convince you that it’s on the Oprah Book Club list. Which it is not.
But yeah, I worked really hard on the book. What’s funny is that we made it part of the storyline for The D-List, so I actually wrote the book while I was doing The D List. It was funny because the Bravo people were mad at me, because I’d be doing the book every time we weren’t taping, and I said, “You guys, I know you think this is a funny storyline for the reality show, but you do realize I actually have to write the book.”
We shot all these funny things with Random House, and I was like, “But you know, now I actually have to go off and do the book.” It’s not like it was a made-up storyline. It was a grueler but in a good way, and I had a very, very good ghost writer named Robert Abele, and he helped me with the story and what goes where, and I hopefully provided the funny and a little bit shocking.
Well, since this interview is coming out in October after the book comes out, I’m assuming your book will be a bestseller by that time, right? [At press time, Official Book Club Selection was #1 on the The New York Times best-sellers list.]
Well, yes. My goal is to knock the Bible off the best-sellers list. Just for one day.
How a fashion photographer is making his voice, and the voices of others, heard in support of marriage equality
It is an idea borne of frustration, as art often is. Photographer Adam Bouska was frustrated when, in 2008, California voters swept away marriage equality with the passage of Proposition 8. He felt he and thousands like him had been silenced by the bigotry—albeit well-organized bigotry—from extremists who intend to restrict freedom to marry.
In response, Bouska and his partner, Jeff Parshley, were inspired to develop NOH8. The online campaign depicts a simple image: celebrities and regular folks with duct tape over their mouths symbolizing their voices not being heard. The result has been an explosion of participation—not just Californians—with the images spilling over to social sites like Facebook.com and beyond.
Blase DiStefano: How did you become involved in the NOH8 campaign, and how did the idea for the photos come about?
Adam Bouska: We initially started taking photos of friends and family to convey our message shortly after the passage of Prop 8 here in California. Online, a lot of people were using “victim of h8” logos, but we wanted a way for people to show their faces while still sending the message. Things blew up from there!
Tell me about the photo shoot with Kathy. Had you met her previously?
Kathy was on point! She’s everything you would expect her to be and more. She came by the studio with Team Griffin, which includes her mother, Maggie (the 89-year-old activist tipping a glass of white wine). It was an amazing experience and we were honored to have them! I hadn’t met her before, but I hope to meet with her again soon.
Anything at all you’d like to add?
Check out the cool behind-the-scenes video Kathy Griffin made for us on the website (noh8campaign.com) along with our PSAs and other great photos and clips! We’re also on twitter @ noh8campaign!