By Molly McGonigle
As a fashion powerhouse, Tim Gunn has seen it all. From rude celebs to proper ettiguette from stars, Gunn tells all in his new book, Gunn's Golden Rules. See what Gunn has to say to Thefrisky.com about Martha Stewart, Padma Lakshmi 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 laying out the chapters that were the [ettiquette] lessons, so to speak, and then starting to fill them and I kept telling myself, 'Write as though its 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 on enabler: she may not be happy with the behavior, but she never once flinched during the whole outburst.
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 book doesn't just criticize the behavior of celebs — you write about your own family, too, including where you say that you believe your father may have been a closeted homosexual in a relationship with J. Edgar Hoover. Are they going to be happy about that?
TG: They haven't read it yet.
TF: How do you think that's going to go?
TG: My deathly ill mother, if she's still alive next Tuesday, she won't be by Wednesday.
TF: Oh, I'm so sorry!
TG: (laughs uproariously) She's not going to like it.
TF: I'm glad the producers didn't edit it out. I was sitting there cheering.
TG: Oh, thank you. Some people said I was really inappropriate. But I thought, 'No! I was being the dad, saying 'Listen, kids!''
TF: Anyway, back to your book: you describe Christian Siriano as the first "fashion prodigy" that you've ever seen.
TF: Are there other designers who you think aren't as famous as they should be, though?
TG: A lot. A lot.