"She looked self-made, not handled, but she had the air of somebody who knew stardom was inevitable. The subtext of her attitude was 'You have no idea how big I'm going to be. You'll rue how you weren't more respectful." That is former MTV VJ, Alan Hunter recalling his first meeting with Madonna, back in 1983. This -- and many other dishy tales -- will be ladled out in a coming book, VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave.
By the time I finally met Madonna, she was as big as she thought she was going to be when she famously told Dick Clark, "I want to rule the world."
I can't recall exactly what the interview was about -- perhaps her "Sex" book and "Body of Evidence" movie. But I do remember, just before the cameras rolled, Madonna said to me, "You're not afraid of me. I like that."
By the way, this is not a unique way of thinking for stars who inhabit the upper-upper echelon. Bette Davis didn't like people who cowered. Elizabeth Taylor was the same way. If you showed you were overly impressed, Elizabeth might well send you out to pick up some jewelry for her.
And expect you to pay for it.
• On Thursday, Peggy Siegal, Manhattan's Queen of the Night, switches on the electric lights of her energy in the afternoon. Peggy will oversee a lunch and discussion about one of the year's most eagerly-waited films -- Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. This book has seen about five screen incarnations, most famously, the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. (At that time, the talented Miss Farrow still seemed to be recovering from her dealings with Satan in Rosemary's Baby. Despite the lavish costuming she looked terrified rather than the delicious object of Jay Gatsby's fantasies. Well, Redford wasn't a ball of fire either. Karen Black stole the film, really.)
This version of "Gatsby" stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire -- the latter must be so relieved to wriggle out of that "Spiderman" bodysuit, and wear elegant black tie! Director Luhrmann decided to shoot in 3-D. Unless everybody's head explodes, I can't imagine why. But maybe it'll work. After all, he did give us the divine Moulin Rouge.
Anna Wintour, David Remnick, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher will greet, and mingle among the guests at the New York Public Library. Tiffany and MAC cosmetics are co-hosting this luncheon.
Meanwhile, all versions of the fabled Scott Fitzgerald work are selling out on Amazon!
• You know how the Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."
Well, that still applies and seems to be alive and well. And, my friend James C. Goodale, has finally gotten around to publishing his book which is about how he defended the New York Times as a lawyer over the issue of their releasing the infamous Pentagon Papers. This was back in 1971 under the aegis of managing editor Abe Rosenthal. Ancient history? Well, yes, it took a while. When I asked Mr. Goodale what he had new to say, he laughed: "Well, my sainted press agent says that in this book I compare President Obama to President Nixon and I warn of 'attacks on the free press.'"
What brings this up to the present is that reading this seemingly dry as dust stuff is actually just the opposite. The book, titled Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles, published by the CUNY Journalism Press, is a pell-mell page-turner!
So, what happened last week when I went to a party for Mr. Goodale hosted by Tina Brown/Harry Evans in their made-for-cocktails apartment on East 57th Street? A who's who of journalism appeared, including two of my heroes, Morley Safer and Dan Rather. And then there was the ebullient Carl Bernstein and all those folks from the Times who haven't forgotten the Times of the 1970's.
Harry Evans, no sissy when it comes to defending a free press himself, got up on a chair and engaged author Goodale in a long heated argument as to whether Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is as entitled to a defense as the Times! This went on for quite a while as we cocktail sippers pondered on how everything has changed thanks to the Internet. I think, in spite of the Internet changing everything it was decided that any free press is still worth defending.
Among the missing were Mr. and Mrs. Ben Bradlee, once of the Washington Post. They are the best pals of James and Toni Goodale. But travel these days is hard and broadens your seating arrangements. Still, I did miss them. The last party where I saw them, I sat next to the still sexy Ben. When Henry Kissinger was asked to say a few words about Turkey, Ben whispered in my ear: "Liz, get up and interrupt Henry and say the open question is sex-after-90!"
• I'm not much of a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, though if I ever got to know her, I might change my mind. (I love her mother, Blythe Danner.) But I am shocked at the snarky press Gwyneth receives. The media pounced last week when Paltrow was chosen by People magazine as the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you'd think they'd found a collection of dead babies in her cellar! Then she wore an oddly cut, semi-transparent gown to a premiere -- something she even said was a mistake. Still she was slaughtered. Enough already with the Paltrow bashing. The more people are beaten up by the press, the more likely I am to have some sympathy for them. And, it's boring, too.
I have been even more surprised by the vitriol poured on Reese Witherspoon in cyberspace. The blogs are alive with scathing criticism of her and her husband's tipsy run in with the law. Drunk driving is no joke. But she owned up to her foolish behavior right away. I'd always thought Reese was an excellent role model, never playing victimized women, a strong character onscreen and off. But so many seem to have taken her stumble personally. Maybe she's been too much of a good role model?
P.S. An elegant-looking Paltrow decorates the cover of the new issues of Harper's Bazaar. Inside she says, "I've learned a lot about genuinely not caring what strangers think about me!"
What I liked best in this issue of HB turned out to be an advertisement. Flipping through, I open a page and in big hot pink letters it says, "Raquel." At first I thought it was an article about the eternal sex-symbol, Miss Welch. But no, it is touting Rocky's line of wigs. The woman is 70, and looks about 35. Yeah, yeah. I know all about photo-shopping. But nobody can be "shopped" this much. The woman has amazing genes and gorgeous skin.