Interviewing a star, like a star

George Wayne found his niche as a celebrity chronicler at Vanity Fair.
George Wayne found his niche as a celebrity chronicler at Vanity Fair.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Vanity Fair columnist George Wayne is asked the same questions he asked the late actress Carrie Fisher and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour

NEW YORK • George Wayne has a theory about why his celebrity column has been a hit at Vanity Fair for more than two decades: sex.

"When you read my interviews, I want you to have a good laugh and I want you to learn something you didn't know about these people," he said as he dipped his spoon into a bowl of butternut squash soup over lunch in Chelsea recently. "So, of course, I am always going to ask about sex. That's my No. 1."

Wayne, 54, was born in Jamaica and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia before moving to New York.

In 1984, he started his own magazine, R.O.M.E., a do-it-yourself collection of interviews he photocopied on paper and bound together with tape. He met Andy Warhol and, after the artist died, became an associate editor at Warhol's magazine Interview.

Later, Wayne caught the eye of media scion S.I. Newhouse Jr and was named one of the first contributing editors at Allure magazine.

But it was at Vanity Fair that Wayne (who calls himself G.W.) found his niche as a celebrity chronicler. "I interviewed actor Fabio Lanzoni," he said. "He was my first interview at Vanity Fair."

His interviews are sass with a dose of shock and often a bit raunchy.

The New York Times decided to turn the celebrity tables on Wayne and ask him some of the same questions he asked notable luminaries, among them the late actress Carrie Fisher, Ivanka Trump, daughter of United States President Donald Trump, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and his old boss at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter.

Many were lifted from Anyone Who's Anyone: The Astonishing Celebrity Interviews, 1987-2017, a collection spanning Wayne's 30-year career.

He was not told until the end of the interview that the questions were his. (His answers are edited for context and space.)

What is one of the most outrageous rumours you have heard about yourself lately? (a question posed to Fisher)

Lately? That I'm drunk. No. I haven't heard any. I never Google myself. I have no idea.

Who is the phoniest person in Hollywood? (the late comedienne Joan Rivers)

That's a tough one. Can I think about that and get back to you?

No.

Angelina Jolie. That is just my personal opinion. She is a bit of a phony baloney.

Have you ever interviewed her?

No, I've never interviewed Angelina. After what she did to Brad, really? I'm not buying any of that stuff she said about Brad Pitt.

If there is one vice, what would it be? (Ivanka Trump)

I love champagne. It is a vice. I love champagne, but I love to drink champagne with orange juice, passion fruit and vodka. It's called the G.W. Mimzy. You have to try one before you leave.

How much time do you spend in front of the mirror each morning? (Lanzoni)

Not very much at all. I take three showers a day. I do. I like to take them all the time. I use Mario Badescu. That, I live by. I don't get the facials. I get their products. Serums, which I love. And the shaving cream.

How is your sex life? (the late comedian Milton Berle)

I've been, basically, celibate a long time. I would love to be in a relationship. For some reason, I never have sex in New York City. I would love to be in a committed relationship. But I'm picky.

Is it true you write all of your books in longhand? (the late author Jackie Collins)

I do. (He pulls out a stack of white paper stapled together.) These are some notes. I save everything. It's like regular white paper. I cut it. I make little books. So, if you come to my apartment, which is the size of this table, you'll find nothing but filing cabinets and magazines. Filing cabinets with my notes.

Talk a little about your childhood. Was it privileged? (Wintour)

Yeah. I was a lucky kid. My parents gave me the best of everything, to be honest.

My father worked with a Canadian company, a conglomerate. My mother sold real estate. And she drove a Peugeot. And nobody in Jamaica drove a Peugeot. I went to boarding school. It was called Munro College, where a lot of Rhodes scholars went.

I was on the quiz team. We won twice. The quiz competition in Jamaica is a big deal. It is like being on American Idol. All the high schools compete against one another on live television. And it's a must-watch. It's called the Jamaica Schools Challenge Quiz.

Four members from each school compete against one another. After we won, I was a super-stud on campus.

What do you think of Donald Trump? (Entrepreneur Ian Schrager)

You know, Hillary Clinton wrote the book, What Happened?.

Well, what happened to "The Donald"? In the golden age when Donald and Ivana were together, he was amazing. Donald was a lot of fun. And I don't know. It's the strangest thing, what has happened.

It's like watching an ogre metastasise. I'm just thinking a lot of us knew the man who was so fun and so charming. He always had his quirks.

Who knew that he would become this Islamaphobic, homophobic racist? I just can't imagine where this all came from.

Do you watch television? (Berle)

I love television. Basically, I watch the BBC, to be honest.

When are you inspired to write your material? (model Sandra Bernhard)

The funny thing is I like to write at night. I'm a night owl. I like to write when it's 11pm to about 2 o'clock in the morning. I need my eight hours of sleep. You ask me what my vice is? It's sleeping. I like to get my beauty rest. I smoke and then I write.

And what will be the title of your memoirs? (Carter)

"Simply George-ous." May I say, simply gee-ooorge-us.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Interviewing a star, like a star'. Print Edition | Subscribe