Ever since it came out that Bravo had plans for a Laura Bennett reality show and that La Laura was authoring a book, the amount of "When are you guys going to tell us more about this?" emails came flooding in. Well, kittens, now we're going to tell you more about this. Or at least, Laura is.
Tell us about your book, “Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?”
It’s a memoir about my stories of raising 6 kids in Manhattan, but I have to say, it’s sort of embarrassing these days to say that you’re writing a book, right? Every reality show, tacky housewife is now featured on television, meeting with her publisher. I don’t even talk about it to people anymore [laughs]. It’s almost embarrassing. Do you guys feel the same way?
It depends on the person doing the talking. Those housewives are tacky no matter what they do.
I know, I know. It used to feel like such an accomplishment to get a book published by a major publisher, now anybody who’s been on television for fifteen minutes is writing a book.
Well, do you feel that the fact that you were on television helped you get the book published?
Oh, absolutely. Originally Random House contacted me because there was this guy that was a fan of mine and they asked me to lunch and if I had ever thought of writing a book. I didn’t know if I could write word one. I guess they figured they could always get someone to write it for me. I think they were pleasantly surprised they they got my proposal all written up and they ended up buying the proposal and they seemed to love the book so far. Hopefully it won’t just get cast into that group of books, “Oh, she’s a reality star.” You know, the pile with Simon and Alex, Class with the Countess, whatever the hell other books are out there.
Another exciting thing about my book is that it was picked up by a television agent in Hollywood and I’m actually pitching my book as a scripted television series. That’s fun. We’ll see if it plays out at all. If nothing else, it’s fun to fly to LA and go around all the networks and have meetings with them, it’s quite an experience.
When is the book coming out?
The book is scheduled to come out in the spring, March of 2010. I believe that’s the release date. Apparently that’s a good book release time I was told.
Are you going to be touring?
I didn’t have a marketing plan worked into my deal with Random House so I’m not exactly sure what they’re planning. I know that publishers don’t spend as much money on that kind of thing as they used to. If it turns out that it isn’t necessary or the most efficient way to market a book these days. It used to be about the local book stores, what books they were selling and The New York Times best seller list, but now it’s all about getting on Internet sites, Amazon.com… the industry is really going through a huge shift right now.
I doubt there will be a lengthy or expensive book tour in the traditional sense of what it used to be. I mean, think about it, I can do an interview on your website and reach 100,000 people or go stand at Barnes & Noble and maybe reach 60 or a 100.
People are going to assume that you didn’t write this book, so tell us about the process of writing the book. Did you find it difficult?
No, actually it was surprisingly not difficult. When you start to write a book, it’s an amazing, overwhelming task, so when I had this opportunity with Random House I certainly didn’t want to blow a great opportunity, because when they came to me and ask to write a book it wasn’t a done deal, I still had to put together a proposal that they liked enough to pay for it and the more they liked, obviously the more they would pay.
So, the first thing I did was find myself a woman who was experienced and from the publishing industry for many years and who knows what publishers are looking for in a book proposal and knows the format. I didn’t want to walk in there with a pile of posted notes from notebook paper. I wanted to make a professional presentation. I did hire someone to help me put my book proposal together and she worked with me throughout the writing of the book in an editing capacity. I would write my stories down, she would help me group them and organize them so that they came out into coherent chapters.
When you read the book you’ll see so clearly that these are my stories, you can definitely see that they weren’t written by someone else. I also have my columns on The Daily Beast and they’re not going to be paying someone to write an article and put my name on it. My name is just not that big. I write every word that gets posted on The Daily Beast and the writing style is exactly the same as in the book.
And the book does have illustrations, right?
Yes, each chapter has a comic strip that has to do with the topic of the chapter and they are illustrated by Robert Best.
Why Robert Best?
Robert has sort of stuck with me through several projects. We do a comic strip together on iVillage and a series of comics we were working on for t-shirts and things like that. I wasn’t going to abandon him now. He’s stuck with me through all the non-paying jobs and this was the opportunity to finally do something for him. There was no way I was going to move forward without inviting him to come along with me.
He does such a great job in depicting you and your fabulosity.
He gets me, he knows my wardrobe…Random House actually had another illustrator when they were designing the cover but this person didn’t have the same knowing quality that Robert has.
It’s interesting to see how people hate or love you and have no problem expressing it here on our blog, on The Daily Beast, on Jezebel…It all started when you said on Project Runway that you don’t have to cook, clean or open the mail [laughs]. Have people always reacted that way even before the show?
You know, people are always nice to me in person, I don’t know what they say about me when they leave the room. The funny thing about me, and you guys know this, I look a little differently than I act. By the way that I look and they way that I dress you might think that I’m this stuck up, up-town wealthy person, but I’m not like that in real life and I think that’s what makes…actually, my book and my articles, there’s sort of this incongruity between the way I look and they way I act and the things that I say.
Generally, when I meet people in person for the first time they’re usually surprised that I’m not so uptight and fancy. There’s also the element of people hating rich people in this country and people perceived me to be privileged and wealthy. They automatically don’t like the idea that I have help with my kids. The truth is, where I live, it’s impossible for one person to get all of these kids where they need to be at all the different times of the day. It’s just not possible. In the suburbs, you pack your kids in the car and you drive from place to place, from the doctor’s office, to ballet, to soccer…in New York it doesn’t work that way. They can hate me all they want for having help with the kids, but it’s just not possible to operate this organization without someone else.
What do you think are some of the benefits of raising your kids in Manhattan?
One of the reasons I do it is selfish. It’s because I feel that as long as I stay in Manhattan I won’t get sucked into this whole mommy world where your kids and what they do is all that’s going on. I fear leaving NY for my own reasons, but it’s also a great place to raise your kids. There’s tons of stuff to do, they have great schools here, they’re sharp, they’re savvy, they know the streets, they know how to deal with people. They hang out at the Metropolitan Museum instead of the mall.
Now, I remember when I first moved to NY sitting on the bus and listening to these kids speak to each other and coming from the south I was shocked, those kids were amazing. Also, there are other factors that are great for raising kids in Manhattan, for example, they don’t drive, they’re always traveling in groups. If they do end up drinking somewhere the worst that is going to happen is that they’ll stumble outside and grab a cab. In my town where we go on the weekends, they lose one or two high-school kids every year to drunk-driving accidents. Plus, there’s so much to do here, film-making camps, acting programs, fencing, arts programs, robotic building…amazing resources here for kids.
We want to go back to something you said about the mommy culture and how you avoided that by living in Manhattan.You've sort of made a name for yourself especially with The Daily Beast columns by poking fun of the Manhattan mommy culture, so there is a certain aspect of that in the big city.
Yes, definitely. There’s that alpha mom thing going on. As a matter of fact, I find that the wealthier the community is, the more you see of that. I guess it takes more time and money to be that neurotic. New York isn’t an easy city to survive in, so people that are here are go-getters and they’re that way with their children too.
The funny thing is that, the things that I said in my articles about motherhood, I find that it’s not so much the women that get offended by it, it’s the men who don’t want to know that their mothers didn’t love them for five minutes, that the mothers wanted them out of the house so that they could rest for being exhausted. Men have a lot of trouble with my articles and women tend to be more on my side.
Speaking of your columns, you said in one of them that “changing diapers, cooking every meal and doing every pick-up and drop-off doesn’t make you love your children even more.”
I think that goes back to having help. Having help actually make my life less stressful and I’m a better person for my kids. I don’t equate doing it all on your own with any sort of better brand of motherhood. It just doesn’t add up for me.
One of the commenters actually said, “If you can’t take care of your kids why have them at all?”
Well, that’s the thing with the Internet, people can say anything. It’s not even worth acknowledging. I love my kids. I just love them in a less June Cleaver way than other people.
We’ve been around your kids many times and they’re happy, well-adjusted kids.
I think they’re actually more than happy. They’re interesting, funny characters. They’ve been raised investigate and play with different strengths and interests. They’re really cool little people.
One thing we think about your kids is that they are fearless. They’re never shy, they can talk to anybody and they’re not precocious, they’re just fearless. You even mentioned in one of your columns that “sheltering children from every evil in the world does them a disservice.”
The world is not a warm and fuzzy place in the end. If your mother spends the first eighteen years of your life sheltering you from any disappointment or need to readjust, recoup or revamp or come up with a new plan, how are you going to survive? What are you going to do in college? How are you going to make decisions in life? Because in the end, they’re out on their own, so I think the most important thing you can do is, instead of making decisions for them their whole life, teach them how to make smart decisions.
Maybe it’s easy for me because I have so many children. I can let go of a few things, not every single moment or decision is so precious to me because it happens so often around here. In the end, it’s that child’s life, not your life. I feel that with a lot of mothers, their child is their entire life. I worry for both of them.
Tell us about your TV show.
There’s a pilot for Bravo that hasn’t been officially picked up yet. It’s a reality show about being a working mother living in Manhattan, sort of the same topic as the book. Bravo has until October to make a decision; it’s not a definite show yet. It’s one of their shows in development.
We thought it was very funny [Laura showed us the pilot]. We thought it made a great counterpoint to all those horrible housewife shows. Do you think that’s a problem, that your show isn’t more outrageous?
As much as we turn our noses at these housewife shows, the truth is that Bravo is getting amazing ratings, they’re doing very well. I think the pilot that I did - which was produced by one of the producers of the Magical Elves and somebody I trust – is kind of charming in a way. It is very funny, but I don’t come off as a train wreck and I think that might be a problem for reality television, honestly. Personally I think it would fit really well Bravo line-up of shows. It’s a little bit different and a smarter show.
I don’t like to watch myself on television, but I have to say that when I saw the first edited version of that I thought they did an amazing job. It has laugh out loud moments, subtle funny moments, you can watch it several times to pick up things you missed the first time. I don’t know whether they’re going to pick it up or not, the other shows are doing so well. We’ll see and if Bravo doesn’t pick it up I’ll try to sell the show elsewhere.
Well, if you want, we can link to the press that you used to be a hooker, had a criminal past and wrote a book about it. You know, just to juice it up a bit.
[Laughs] Exactly. We can also put Peter out with co-eds in bars.
Laura and Peter plus six; there you go.
Moving on to Project Runway…we just celebrated our third year of blogging and we were looking at our first post about you showing up with Louis Vuitton cases. Do you miss it? Do you feel a little nostalgic about it?
I don’t miss it at all or don’t necessarily miss being a part of it but I acknowledge a hundred percent what it did for me and the opportunities that has afforded me, what a great show it is, and what great things it’s done for me, but I don’t envy those designers when I see them there in the room, I don’t long for that moment in the spotlight that they’re getting. I wish them well. it’s somebody else’s turn now.
Is that why you decided not to accept the All-Stars offer?
I didn’t accept the offer for a couple of reasons, the easiest being that I have a contract with Bravo until they make their decision about my show for reality television on their network and frankly Lifetime doesn’t want to be doing a lot of co-mingling with Bravo characters and they knew I did a pilot for Bravo. That was the easiest reason to say no, but the truth is, I feel like I know too much now to get myself involved in something like that and I actually ran into Jeffrey at Mood when he was in town getting ready to shoot that and that just confirmed that I didn’t want to be stuck in a room.
OK, we can’t let that pass by without asking you, what was it like running into Jeffrey again?
It was fine, he was very cordial and nice and I was nice to him, but just speaking to him was like the same thing all over again. He was talking about what a big star he is, how his band is being produced by these amazing producers, he’s going to wear t-shirts with his band name on it every day while they’re filming, everything is huge, he just happens to have these two weeks off to do this show, he’s completely booked, it was the same bullshit again, and I thought, oh my God, to be in a room with that and then Santino too?
I wish him well, I’m just glad I’m not part of it. I would’ve loved to have done it with Mychael Knight, Uli… I met Sweet Pea before, she’s very nice…Daniel Vosovic is great. They have some great people on there. But you know what those two are going to be up to.
Yeah, they’re going to bump it up to eleven.
So, no more clothing lines for you?
I have to say that of all the different opportunities that have come out of Project Runway, clothing design is the slowest one for me right now. I was doing a line for QVC but they didn’t place an order for this coming season, so I’m not doing that at the moment. I have a friend who’s opening a boutique here in NY and the theme of the boutique is clothes for grown-ups. She said she’s having more and more trouble finding clothes that a 40-year-old woman can wear. I’m a doing a line for that store. If my show gets picked up by Bravo, there will be a lot of designing incorporated into the show and I’ll definitely design a line of clothing to sell on Bluefly.
Well, thank you darling, and we'll see you at your country house next week!
[Photos: Getty Images - Screencaps: projectrungay.blogspot.com - Illustration: Robert Best]
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