Vanity Fair Cover: Tina Fey As a Patriotic Pin-up

“The collective consciousness has said, ‘Tina, dahling, where have you been? Where on earth have you been?”’ — Alec Baldwin

The article featured in The January Issue of Vanity Fair  was a great meeting of the minds. The geek’s vixen (Maureen Dowd) interviewed the smart alec’s sex-pot (Tina Fey.)

Maureen Dowd interviewing Tina Fey? Hell yea! Sexy bitch to sexy bitch. It was also long and juicy, touching on Fey’s career, marriage, childhood and motherhood. It discussed what many think of as Fey’s fairy tale ugly ducking to swan transformation (although not everyone buys into the “Yay! Fey lost 30 lbs!” thang.  Myself, for example, and Fey’s hubby think she was just damn fine yum before.) The article also revealed that Fey was the childhood victim of violence via a disfiguring attack by a stranger. The latter was one of  several new things I learned about Fey.

On the duh duh duh “She’s sure perty”  front, the magazine satisfies. Although I was hoping for more pin-up style photos inside. Fey looks lovely in her little black dress but I dig the over-the-top goofiness of the cover and always love a fun costumey celeb spread.

Tina Fey looks so sexy-licious on the cover of January’s Vanity Fair.

So seriously sassy that it makes me want to stand up and salute. 

I ask not what can Tina Fey can do for me but what I can do for Tina Fey.

cover-0901-ht

Determined to get in good with Tina — a charming ” prude/lewd split personality” — Maureen Down wooed the famous Fey with sweets.

Her true vice is cupcakes. I’ve brought her a box, one frosted with the face of Sarah Palin. She chooses that one.

Fey wasn’t shy about choosing the biggest one or about chowing down on Sarah Palin. Fey isn’t trying to be a 90210 beauty but she does confess to striving for a more 212 NYC area-code kinda fetching.

She wanted to be “PBS pretty”—pretty for a smart writer.

She shed 30 — acceptable in Chicago pounds — and I dunno, waxed some stuff. Put on some glasses or changed her glasses. Supposedly went from a Nottie to a Hottie. What-ev. I was kinda blah on that aspect of the article. I don’t think Fey got fantastic through sheer force of Natzi-esque will. I call bullshit! Surely she was something special all along. Steve Higgins, an S.N.L. producer, attests to the come-hither having come with her all the way from Chi-town.

When she got here she was kind of goofy-looking, but everyone had a crush on her because she was so funny and bitingly mean.

The make-over Fey gave herself was subtle…. fortunately for the gnads of nerds everywhere. Tina Fey went from Geek to Geek-Chic. That whole pencil skirt & pencil stuck in a messy up-do look. Michael Specter, a New Yorker writer,  is glad she kept her look whip-smart calling Fey

“the sex symbol for every man who reads without moving his lips.”

Fey’s husband and long-time love, Jeff Richmond, wistfully describes Fey in “her pre-glamour-puss days, back in Chicago.”

She was quite round in a lovely, turn-of-the-century kind of round—that beautiful, Rubenesque kind of beauty. She used to wear crazy boots. She would wear knee-length frumpy dresses with thrift-store sweaters. It still looked kind of cool on her.

Richmond thought he and Fey made a good couple and not just because they both gobbled sandwiches with great abandon or laughed at Gary Shandling but because they’re off-beat beauty was complementary. At 5 feet three and one-half inches, Richmond was retro.

I used to get all my suits in thrift stores, because I realized I was the size of little old men who were dying

Dowd writes of how the handsome couple “fell in love quickly, soon after a Sunday afternoon spent together at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.”

Fey dead-panned, “We walked into a model of the human heart”

 Fey and Richmond seem to enjoy a “borderline-boring” marriage that thrives on communication, honesty and clear-cut rules.

“I know how she feels about some things, like, we never had to deal with any of this, but: adultery. Anything like that, messing around, is just such a complete ‘No’ to her. And she has her principles and she sticks to her principles more than anybody I’ve ever met in my life. Like that whole idea of, if you are in a relationship, there are deal breakers. There’s not a lot of gray area. “

They’ve never had to deal with adultery, in part I’m sure, because loyalty is they EXPECT from each other and there’s an expectation of serious consequences if they don’t do right. Fey expects Richmond to be a good guy because that’s what she WANTS in a man.

 “I don’t have that kind of ‘I love the bad guys’ thing. No, no thank you. I like nice people.”

Maureen Dowd was privy to a conversation — “woven with intimacy, the easy banter of a couple who knew each other long before fame hit” — between Fey and her “puckish” hubby.

“When we were first dating,” Richmond says, harking back to Chicago in 1994, “some of the guys at Second City said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be a hoot if we go over—”’

“‘—over to the Doll House,”’ Fey finishes. “‘We’ll go to this strip club ironically.’ I was like, ‘The fuck you will.”’

That had me chuckling cause: 

A) what a lucky lucky lad is Richmond to have Fey saying “The fuck you will” to him. Yum.

B) My abode, my home, has been known as “The Doll House” for years since back in the day when my roomies and I had a prank pretend punk band called “The Dollies” but now even brand new friends take to it quickly because, well, frankly I look like a doll. Not a stripper but an actual doll… think kewpie, not Barbie. After years of being called “Dollface” from every random someone — the butcher, the baker & the candlestick maker — I’ve finally embraced it (the right person started calling me DF I guess.) Sooooo my house has the same name as the strip club Fey’s man was forbidden (verboten) to enter? Well that’s just the best.

Fey likes to laugh at strippers not ogle them. She doesn’t wanna put dollars into their g-strings and she wants you to not want to either. She wants strippers to stop shaking their money makers and instead study art history in college. She wants them to put  down their sky-high lucite heels and pick up books, instruments (Fey played the flute) or easels. Why? Cause we’re better than that, she claims.

“I love to play strippers and to imitate them. I love using that idea for comedy, but the idea of actually going there? I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little bit better than that.”

If Fey thinks we’re better than that then maybe we should try to be better. Maybe we should stand up and do right. There’s a lot of talk about Fey’s Germanic love of law & order (S.N.L. alum Colin Quinn calls Fey “Herman the German.”) Dowd can see why –” She’s a sprite with a Rommel battle plan.” Fey is a fan of Leni Riefanstahl’s auto-bio which at 669 pages is a thorough look into the Hitler-touched Natzi Propaganada filmmaker whose movies such as Triumph of the Will have been the river from which political propaganda feeds.

“If she hadn’t been so brilliant at what she did, she wouldn’t have been so evil, she was like, in the book, ‘He was the leader of the country. Who was I not to go?’ And it’s like, Note to self: Think through the invite from the leader of your country.”

As Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White were giving out the Emmy for outstanding comedy series, Fey found herself coveting the award or rather the actual physical statuette that would be passed from their hands to hers.

“I had this visceral thing of, like, I want them to gimme that! I want to get that from those ladies!”

Symbolism was not lost on the Emmy deities.

Within moments 30 Rockwas called and she went up onstage, glowing in a strapless eggplant mermaid David Meister gown, to take the Emmy from the two women who had provided the template for her own show. It was a dazzling Cinderella moment (except for Fey’s purse getting stolen while she was onstage). She got her own slipper, writing and willing herself into the role, and the shoe wasn’t glass. It was a silver Manolo Blahnik.

What kind of total a-hole would steal Tina Fey’s purse while she was accepting her well-deserved symbol-soaked Emmy?

 Although that a-hole aint nothin’ compared to the sicko psycho who slashed a child’s face.

Liz Lemon favors her right side. That’s because a faint scar runs across Tina Fey’s left cheek, the result of a violent cutting attack by a stranger when Fey was five. Her husband says, “It was in, like, the front yard of her house, and somebody who just came up, and she just thought somebody marked her with a pen.” You can hardly see the scar in person. But I agree with Richmond that it makes Fey more lovely, like a hint of Marlene Dietrich noir glamour in a Preston Sturges heroine.

“That scar was fascinating to me,” Richmond recalls. “This is somebody who, no matter what it was, has gone through something. And I think it really informs the way she thinks about her life. When you have that kind of thing happen to you, that makes you scared of certain things, that makes you frightened of different things, your comedy comes out in a different kind of way, and it also makes you feel for people.”

The violent attack Fey suffered at the hands of a sadistic stranger and the scars that still remain were by far the most riveting part of the article. It’s illuminating. On so many levels. I’m a much bigger fan of Fey’s than I was before and readers of this blog know how I loves me some Fey.

Marci Klein—the cool, tall, blonde executive producer of 30 Rock and producer of S.N.L., and the daughter of Calvin Klein—who was kidnapped for 10 hours when she was 11, remembers, “Tina said to me, ‘Well, you know, Marci, we had the Bad Thing happen to us. We know what it’s like.”’

I too am someone who had what Fey calls THE BAD THING happen. My heart broke for that child and her soft cheek and then my heart soared to see yet again how those traumas set people on a special path. Such an intense experience can have an almost shamanic quality, shaking a person up in such a way that they are transformed. There’s an alchemy that comes from healing, from making something like that into something new and better for yourself…experiencing it and then surviving it is a psychological vision quest that us “victims” are lucky to go on. Does it suck that it happened to her? YES. Is that part of Fey’s magic? No doubt.

That said, I can see why Fey “rarely mentions the episode” and continues to struggle with it, sometimes even when she’s not expecting it to resurface.

 “It’s impossible to talk about it without somehow seemingly exploiting it and glorifying it,” says Fey

She used therapy to cope with her extremely fearful reaction to the anthrax attack at 30 Rock shortly after 9/11—the first time her co-workers had seen her vulnerable. The therapist talked to her about 9/11 and the anthrax delivered to Tom Brokaw’s office, linking them to the crime against her when she was little. “It’s the attack out of nowhere,” Fey says. “Something comes out of nowhere, it’s horrifying.”

When asked how that little kid trauma has affected her now that she’s mama to her own kiddie, Fey seemed prepared for some potentially rough times.

“Supposedly, I will go crazy. My therapist says, ‘When Alice is the age that you were, you may go crazy.”’

But then again Fey may just be okay, having been willing to explore it through therapy as well as through art. She’s processed it — at least creatively.

Liz Lemon’s blustery Republican boss, Jack Donaghy, played with comic genius by Alec Baldwin, tells Lemon, “I don’t know what happened in your life that caused you to develop a sense of humor as a coping mechanism. Maybe it was some sort of brace or corrective boot you wore during childhood, but in any case I’m glad you’re on my team.”

Plus there’s the fact that Fey doesn’t have much patience for drama or crazy. Dowd asks her if she ever counsels Lindsay Lohan, Tracy Morgan or Alec Baldwin.

“I have no enabler bone in my body—not one. I’m sort of like, ‘Oh, are you going crazy? I’ll be back in an hour.'”

Janeane Garofalo, in a recent interview in Geek Monthly, talked about being a now lefty who came from a righty-whitey background. Tina Fey came from a similar situation.

“I grew up in a family of Republicans. And when I was 18 and registering to vote, my mom’s only instruction was “You just go in and pull the big Republican lever.” That’s my welcome to adulthood. She’s like, “No, don’t even read it. Just pull the Republican lever.”

Which makes me wonder what are those Repub’s feeding their daughters to make them so damn funny? A buncha bullshit, I s’pose. Both comediennes have come a long way from those right-wing roots and are nows forces to reckoned with in leftist or Democratic politics. Garofalo has “liberal” inked into her flesh — them’s fightin’ words! — like the new bad-ass biker tat. Fey announced she would be leaving the planet if McCain-Palin won the White House. Thanks, in part, to Fey’s masterful skewering of Palin, no one has to be shot into space. While Fey isn’t known for her impressions, it was clear the universe wanted her to ape Palin. It’s one of those mysterious ways in which the world works.  Said Master SNL  Impresario, Darrell Hammond:

“I’ve never seen a better impression. If they put those two on a sonar, they would match up electronically.”

Speaking of those mysterious ways, Adam McKay (who wrote some of the Fey as Palin S.N.L.sketches) pointed out the absurd perfection of the whole Fey as Palin thang.

“It is the most ridiculous, borderline-dangerous thing that the Republican vice-presidential nominee happened to look like the funniest woman working in America.” 

(***View video of Tina Fey’s photo shoot for this month’s Vanity Fair.)

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