George Wayne Speaks About His New Book and Interviewing Celebrities for 30 Years

George Wayne Speaks About His New Book and Interviewing Celebrities for 30 Years

The former Vanity Fair columnist has released a book with Harper Collins that touches upon his most notable interviews.

The former Vanity Fair columnist has released a book with Harper Collins that touches upon his most notable interviews.

Text: Nadja Sayej

New York journalist George Wayne is the quintessential celebrity interviewer—he once asked Donatella Versace about her bleached hair, got Kate Moss to open up about losing her virginity and uncovered Anna Wintour’s pet peeves. Now, after his 30-year career in showbiz, the former Vanity Fair columnist has released a book with Harper Collins called Anyone Who’s Anyone: The Astonishing Celebrity Interviews, 1987-2017. The book features almost 50 interviews with New York icons, from Joan Rivers to Martha Stewart, Hollywood star Charlton Heston and magician David Copperfield. Wayne took some time to chat about the new book, hanging out with Gianni Versace and befriending with Ivana Trump.

What do you love interviewing about celebrities the most?

I always believe the question and answer format is an art form, I would like to think I remastered, reinvented, rejiggered the art of the Q&A and it all stems from a sense of curiosity. When I first joined Vanity Fair, I wanted to bring something smart, post-modern, witty and provocative to the table. I wanted to reinvent the Q&A as my messier, my beat. They let me a chance to do it and after 23 years of mastering this form, I would like to think nobody can do a Q&A like me and I continue to perfect it. I probe. Some questions need to be asked and not many people can manage to ask and get away with it, as I’ve managed to do. I’ve asked questions to some of the most extraordinary people who have walked the earth, so this book is really a post-modern treaty on pop culture that will stand the test of time. It will join the ranks of Andy Warhol’s “Diaries” and Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City.”

What’s the biggest mistake you see in Q&As?

Tough question, it’s to not really open up and answer the question. Jon Bon Jovi is not in the book because he was grumpy when I interviewed him over the phone while he was on tour in the 1990s and I said “Are you having a bad hair day?” That set him off. You have to be open and responsive.

Why do you frame your questions in an amusing way?

It’s just who I am. The art of conversation is really important. I want my reader to learn something new; you have to bring a whole new perspective. I interviewed Charlton Heston, a Hollywood icon, who would intimidate the average journalist punk. If you read my interview with him, you’ll learn that he turned down Marilyn Monroe because she thought she was too difficult. Or that time I interviewed Carrie Fischer and asked her what it was like waking up to a dead man in her home one morning [in 2005, Fisher's friend Gregory Stevens, a gay Republican lobbyist, died in his sleep in her home]. She was so open, she answered every question forthrightly. She never said to me “I can’t believe you’re asking me that.”

You became friends with Ivana Trump after interviewing her?

Yes, she became a good friend, I love her. I was tough enough with her; I call her “my God Mama.” Maybe she wouldn’t talk to me if we weren’t? She had a dinner party in 1990, the same year she confronted Marla Maples about having an affair with Donald Trump. I was there. You can become close with these people but not too close.

Does it bother you if you pissed of a lot of PR agencies?

I love pissing off PR agencies. I love when they show up with their talent and expect to sit in on the interviews. I never do interviews with the hacks in the room. Either you don’t show up or you go somewhere else. I got a good giggle with Arianna Huffington, I flew to Washington to interview her, she was a senator’s wife at that time. We were having lunch in the Watergate district and I said something which was common knowledge. I said “can we talk about your gay husband?” She grabbed the tape recorder and ran through the restaurant with my tape recorder. I ran after her yelling “Arianna! Gave me back my tape!” That was the only time the subject took my tape recorder, took out the tape and said “This interview is over.” Ever since, I had the Arianna Rule installed - I have a tape recorder on the table and one in my pocket.

Who is your favorite interview in the book?

There’s so many, I was grateful to interview Donatella Versace, especially with the new TV show based on Gianni Versace. I remember being at Casa Casuarina in Miami and having lunch at the mansion and how gossipy Gianni was, he had all the best fashion gossip. You would go to the mansion for lunch and you’d be there for four hours. After lunch you go by the pool, swim, then go back for cocktails then more gossip and then you would walk out with a fabulous Versace towel or a Medusa medallion. I’m so happy Donatella let me publish the interview with her in my book.

PHOTO JOHN NACION

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