Crooner Bryan Ferry once lamented “with every Goddess a let down, every idol a bring down, it gets you down.” He obviously never met Brooke Shields. I had that honor and thrill Sunday night at Nurse Bettie, that too-small-to-be-even-dubbed-a-hole-in-the-wall joint on Norfolk Street. She is the nicest person I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a few. The occasion was a cast party for The Addams Family Broadway show. She plays Morticia and it sounds like a scream.
The cast sans costumes, entertained by Burlesque performers, curated by photog/makeup artist Tina Turnbow (paid for by Brooke), was so much fun off stage that I’m just dying to see what they bring to the stage. Brooke and I stepped outside to talk. Lower East Side travelers were surprised to see the legendary Brooke sitting out there on a stoop but she disarmed them with a smile and talked to them with an enthusiasm and charm that made them instant friends. As I stood there watching her chat with the hoi polloi her handsome, beautiful face took me back to her Pretty Baby days, her Blue Lagoon era, her Calvin years, her Michael Jackson friendship/romance and all those etceteras.
I asked Tina Turnbow if she was always like this and was told, “I’ve been doing Brooke’s makeup off and on for a while. I remember doing a few photoshoots with her and her co-stars, of Lipstick Jungle. She spread warmth, humor, and support to all. She exudes that same wonderful, caring energy, with her cast-mates of The Addams Family. When I mentioned treating everyone to a private burlesque show at Nurse Bettie—she was down! Besides a million other positives, Brooke loves to see the people she cares about, really happy. Tina added, “When I do her makeup, she still looks like herself, only better and younger. That’s when I get to make her happy.”
The Burlesque gals that have seen it all couldn’t get enough of her. She was involved and interested and appreciative of them as artists. In a NY Post blurb she described the performers as follows, “I really admire what these women do. There is such an art to it, they are able to embrace their sexuality, but also they make it fun.” Despite her star power she was just one of the gals even when she was upstaged by performer Nikki LeVillain’s seven foot Burmese Python. The snake stole the show. There were legitimate fears that it might consume hilarious Addams family co-star Jackie Hoffman who plays Grandma. Besides Ms. Hoffman Zachary James (Lurch), Rachel Potter (Wednesday), and Tony Award-winner Roger Rees (Gomez) were on hand.
The Burlesque gals included Calamity Chang, Stormy Leather, Medianoche, Gal Friday and Honi Harlow. I talked with Brooke for a while about how Steve Rubell and her mother insulated her from the pitfalls of nightlife and others. We talked of Michael Jackson and Lipstick Jungle which she loved and misses. She won me over in seconds and by the time I left her I was completely disarmed. Brooke Shields is not just another pretty face. I remembered to turn on my recorder and leave you with this:
“Scandal” has been in your life even before you could spell the word “scandal.” You’ve always taken it in stride from what I can see, and you explain yourself with a level of honesty.Honesty seems to be a very important word for you. There’s nothing left other than honesty. I’ve been embroiled in certain things that were not precipitated by me, and still, all I can do is be honest about how I feel about it. It’s interesting because whether we’re at a Burlesque event, which I think is such an art form—it’s not porn, it’s not the objectifying women in the wrong way—there’s something about it. I just appreciate it and that’s why I want to celebrate it. All through my life, controversy does follow me and I just have to respond honestly. That’s the only thing I can do because there’s no other point. I don’t have any other choice. A long time ago, when I worked for Steve Rubell at Studio 54, he brought me into his office and said, “I’m throwing Brooke Shields a birthday party. Go get an elephant. I want to get an elephant put her birthday cake on top of it.” And of course, I went out and did that. I got a baby elephant. I totally remember that. And there were gladiators…! My big concern was that the elephant wasn’t scared, because I didn’t ask for the elephant! Other celebrities would’ve been worried about their close-up, and you were worried about the baby elephant. Your name has been linked to sports people, Michael Jackson, a career and a personal life that has really covered the gamut. Still, you really never lose yourself in the hype. My time is not worth more than anybody else’s. It just isn’t. I may be recognizable, or famous, or whatever that means, but that in and of itself really doesn’t mean anything and it doesn’t get you anything. I don’t merit more than anybody else. It doesn’t make me better. It’s arbitrary. Just because you’re recognized does that make you better? I’ve been lucky so far in that I’ve gotten further opportunities from what I did yesterday. Somehow there is a trajectory for me to keep working but it doesn’t make me better. I did a play this summer and I was the lead in the play, I was the only one getting consistently great reviews, and yet I was the only one that didn’t get nominated out of five other women, and the four of them got nominated. And you sit there like, “Wow. Okay. What does it mean?” None of it means anything. It hurt, and I felt terrible about it, but on the same token, it doesn’t make me better, it doesn’t make me less than. I read something earlier, while doing some research, which implied that there was no childhood—it was just work, work, work. Have you always been the same? Eileen Ford said she started the child division at Ford because of you. She said as a very young girl, you were like an adult. But also, my mom said to Eileen, “You need to start a kid’s division and you only have adults.” So my mom actually was the one that spurred Eileen to do that! But here’s the thing. I was an adult at a young age probably more because my mother was an alcoholic. I think that when you’re a child living with an alcoholic, you opt for certain things, and I was an only child. That was a precipitated event to my well-being to act like an adult in comparison to other kids. What my mom said to my dad when they got divorced is: “Listen. I don’t want anything from you. Just put her through school.” And my dad put me through normal, “regular” school. So I stayed in the city and I only went to regular schools. I never went to a professional child’s school, or children’s school. I never got educated by mail. And I think that that really enabled me to have a different perspective. No matter what was going on, I got through the process and God bless her, for as crazy and drunk as my mother was, somehow she took me out of the Hollywood life and said, “Listen. You are going to do this.” And simultaneously, weirdly enough, I was doing films during the summer time while kids were going to summer camp. That’s the juxtaposition. And now you’re playing Morticia in The Addams Family on Broadway. The first one, Carolyn Jones, was on television. But then Anjelica Huston played her in the movie, and my version of Morticia is more like a tribute to Anjelica. She’s going to come see the show. Tell me about Morticia Addams. It made sense for me to come into this because there is such an identification with Morticia and a bizarre identification with me for whatever reason—whether it be Blue Lagoon, or Hannah Montana, Calvin Klein—none of it makes any sense, but it goes farther than I would’ve thought. And there was something that made sense by me coming into that role. So if people are sensitive and loyal to a Morticia character, they’re not going to be mad at me for playing that character. People get really loyal towards the people they like and I understand that, so that’s the first thing. Morticia herself…she’s the mom. She likes darker things, but still, the basis of who she is, is that she doesn’t want to get older. She wants to grow and get older stage-wise, but she doesn’t want to look older. And who wants to look older? She’s also a mom. She’s a wife. She’s the matriarch. She’s that person. I think I identify with her in regards to the fact she’s a really cool person and a cool mom. I got lucky enough to play Morticia. On IMDB, right across the board you stand up for your causes and you don’t let anybody say anything. If someone says something stupid, you’re in their face. I love the story about you standing up to Tom Cruise and then in the end, him apologizing, and also inviting you to the wedding. It was just such a triumph because you just didn’t win; you won him over, which is a big difference. It wasn’t about winning, and it wasn’t even about winning him over. It was about him making a mistake that was bringing a lot of attention to something he believed in but that he wasn’t knowledgeable about. If you respond purely and honestly every time, and you don’t try to affect people for the wrong reasons, that’s all you can be accountable for. I can’t claim anything else other than my own experiences, and what I’ve learned from those experiences. The unfortunate thing was that he was trying to prove one point and he just barked up the wrong tree. I even said that to him when he apologized. I was like, “You didn’t even do your own cause any good,” and he said he got backed into a wall and got attacked. I’m always the first one to say I made a mistake, but there’s nothing else I can do after that but move on and be human. Everybody knows the 2-dimensional you, from print ads to movies and TV, and now you’re on stage which is such a 3-D, human thing. What happens now? What is it that you want to shout out to the world? Every step of the way, I’m never what people think I am.That’s the thing.That’s the point of it. I’m never going to be put into one category, and that is the problem. That’s why my acting career is not one thing. That’s why my persona is not one thing. I can’t…I don’t know why, but I never get to be one category, and therefore that’s why I am a jack of all trades, a master of it.