Elizabeth Sullivan / Splash News 1 / 5
Elizabeth Sullivan / Splash News 1 / 5

By Molly McGonigle

As "Project Runway"'s voice of reason, Tim Gunn never minces words (just ask Gretchen, who got a tongue-lashing from Gunn this season). So it's no surprise that in his new book, "Gunn's Golden Rules," that the reality TV star stays true to himself and, well, tells it like it is when it comes to Anna Wintour, Martha Stewart and more. He recently dished with TheFrisky.com about all things ruling the runway and who he thinks is fashion's biggest prodigy.

TheFrisky.com: "Gunn's Golden Rules" is packaged as an etiquette guide, but really the book is more of a memoir.

Tim Gunn: It evolved into that. It began by laying out the chapters that were the [etiquette] lessons, so to speak, and then starting to fill them. I kept telling myself, "Write as though it's sports reporting: strictly the facts, very matter-of-fact." And then I thought, "Gee, I had an experience with X that tells so much about this particular lesson." And that's really how it evolved. I just began filling it in with personal anecdotes because they resonate so much more powerfully for the reader and certainly for me. Some of [my stories] fall in the category of "emulate this" and others fall in the category of "don't let this happen to you."

TF: There's a lot of "don't let this happen to you" stories, especially about celebrities with whom you've interacted! Aren't you worried about some of the consequences of ratting out their rude behavior?

TG: Oh, for sure I am! I keep thinking Martha Stewart will never have me back on her show again. I mean, I love her. It's her bratty daughter [Alexis] who troubles me so, and especially because Alexis is so willing to do this in public. Of course, at the time we shot that commercial for Macy's [in which Martha and Alexis were hawking some of Martha's products] she didn't have that show "Whatever, Martha!" where she picks apart her mother's television show. That hadn't even happened yet. So [Alexis has] taken it even further than when I saw her. Somehow, Martha has become an enabler: She may not be happy with the behavior, but she never once flinched during the whole outburst.

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TF: Is there a reason you refer to some rude celebs by name, but others you loosely veil their identity? You name names with Anna Wintour, Martha Stewart and "The Countess," but then you just obliquely refer to Padma Lakshmi in the book as a glamorous TV host who used to be married to a famous writer.

TG: It was all the under the direction of the Simon & Schuster legal department, where some people were slightly described and some weren't. I have to tell you, the Padma anecdote was printed [still with her identity loosely veiled] in Marie Claire magazine and I received the most gracious, grand, take-the-high-road letter from Padma, saying "I'm so sorry, I was between assistants and it fell through the cracks and I didn't mean for this to happen." I thought, "Good heavens, here's a lovely plus from this!" Wasn't that lovely of her?

TF: You're also willing to critique your own bad behavior.

TG: Absolutely. I can have the maturity of a gnat and be really bratty and petulant and sulk and pout and give people the cold shoulder. It happened only a few days ago. I have to discipline myself and say, 'Stop it, Tim, you're acting like a brat! Stop it.'

TF: So, let's talk "Project Runway." So far this season, Gretchen has been really cruel to the other designers, talking behind people's backs and saying that she would stand up for her group mates during judging, but then totally selling them out ... She totally deserved to get called out! Was that the first time in "Project Runway" history that you injected yourself into the designers' social drama?

TG: Yes. That absolutely is. I have never done that before, and I will be honest with you: I asked permission to do it. ... I also wanted the whole team to know that I was disappointed in all their behavior. They allowed Gretchen to bully them and direct everything. When I saw how the teams lined up and who the players on the teams were, I thought, "Oh, God, it's so easy to say it's going to be the Christopher-Gretchen-A.J. team that's going to win and the other group is going to be the biggest losers." And then to watch it all happen; this is why I say truth is stranger than fiction. You can't make this stuff up. I was just so disappointed that they allowed Gretchen to design/direct the entire thing and basically not allow them to be who they are as designers. The behavior that Gretchen demonstrated on the runway during that Q&A with the judges is about as close to psychosis as anything I have seen on the show.

But I have to tell you something, too. I've learned to really love and adore her. I'm extremely fond of her. There are multiple dimensions to her.

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TF: Do you want to weigh in on Christina Hendricks' gown at the Emmys?

TG: God, I was at the Emmys. Did I see it?

TF: She is the redheaded actress on "Mad Men," very beautiful and busty, and she wore a lavender gown. Do you recall it?

TG: I don't think I ever saw it. I spent most of the night distracted by January Jones' dress and wondering: "How is she going to sit down?" She definitely managed.

TF: It's too bad you missed Christina's dress. It has been so controversial!

TG: I've been in hiding. I spent two full days on the "Gossip Girl" set, yesterday and Tuesday. It was thrilling to be there. It was not thrilling to lose again, but it was thrilling to be there.

TF: Anyway, back to your book: You describe Christian Siriano as the first "fashion prodigy" that you've ever seen.

TG: Absolutely.

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