Writer, editor and all-around man-about-town George Wayne has mastered the art of the celebrity interview—just ask George Wayne. Witty, mischievous and gleefully controversial, he made his name as the author of the George Wayne Questionnaire—a series of snippy, high-profile tête-a-têtes with everyone from his “godmama” Ivana Trump, to Joan Rivers, to David Copperfield—which have been running somewhat regularly in Vanity Fair for over twenty years.
Today, Wayne has published a compendium of those infamous conversations, in a slim book called Anyone Who’s Anyone. Unlike many other celebrity interviewers and profilers at work today, Wayne not only leaned into tough or personal questions—he seemed to relish asking them, particularly those related to sex. Fans of his work already know this, of course. But for the uninitiated, like me, it will leave you with a sense of admiration for an interviewer so audacious, he was willing to ask Charlton Heston which one of his leading ladies it was hardest to have screen sex with.
“We have to be a little controversial,” Vanity Fair’s longtime editor-in-chief Graydon Carter recalls Wayne writing, in his forward for the book. “Or what’s the point?”
Intrigued, I called Wayne up to discuss the new collection, his relationship with the Trumps, a salacious, unconfirmed Bob Marley rumor and the first question he'd ask Madonna...
So how did this book come about?
It was something I’ve always wanted to do since the very first day I moved to New York City, circa ’85-‘86—to be an author. This is the sort of the book that I know will draw on the pantheon of what I call New York City Pop Literature—or “poperature.” Other examples would be The Andy Warhol Diaries, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and Social Studies by Fran Lebowitz. I wouldn’t mention Sex and the City because I’m still mad at [writer] Candace Bushnell, because she never gave me no fucking credit for introducing her to Mr. Big [laughs].
Is “poperature” a term you created?
Yes. I’m good for coining a word. The word "poperature" is my coinage, just as much as the word “queenious.” It’s beyond genius. It’s “queenious.”
What makes a George Wayne interview a George Wayne interview?
At the end of the day I want the reader to laugh and learn something new about these people. The ones who got it—Carrie Fisher, Joan River, Kate Moss—kind of go with the flow. Unlike others, like Jon Bon Jovi, who’s not in the book, or Arianna Huffington or 50 Cent, who were real jerks, and didn’t really get it.
Where was the strangest place you’ve conducted an interview?
The first interview I did with Mark Walhberg—he’s not in the book, he didn’t want to be in the book, I know why he didn’t want to be in the book...
Why didn’t he want to be in the book?
He didn’t want to be in the book [laughs]...it’s a long story. But the first time I interviewed Mark Wahlberg he was still Marky Mark. This was the height of his Marky Mark poster boy stud muffin ideal. He’s reinvented himself so many times. He’d just got off a plane from Tokyo and I took a car out to New Jersey to interview him in his manager’s home. And I remember at the end of the interview, we were in this library with this fireplace going, I told him take of his shirt and give me fifty push-ups. And he did.
Mark Wahlberg is one of only two people you’ve interviewed twice, the other being David Copperfield. Is there a reason?
We became really good friends. He’s not in the book. I didn’t really want to talk about him. But when I do decide to sell the rights for this as a film, and I think there’s enough there—then we can get into all of that.
We’ll have to talk again at that point. Is there anyone else in the book you’d like to interview again now?
Off the top of my head, the interview with Anna Wintour. Anna Wintour is the dominatrix of Condé Nast right now, the creative director and editor-in-chief of Vogue. But when I interviewed Anna Wintour way, way back in the ‘90s, it was one of the only interviews she’d ever done. She was sort of a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I’m hoping when the paperback edition comes out 10-12 months from now, I’ll have had the chance to interview Anna Wintour again and ask her if it was really true that in the early ‘70s, she had an affair with Bob Marley, because it’s just part of the mythology surrounding Anna Wintour. Which I think is fascinating.
I would like to hear that story.
I do have some confirmation that this really did happen, because at the time, in the ‘70s, at the height of his career, [Marley] was having an affair with Miss Jamaica World. And Miss Jamaica World at the time told me that it’s true, Bob and Anna did have a fling. So I want to have that confirmed. Down the road that will be my dream. In fact, maybe when I see her next week at Graydon [Carter]’s goodbye party, I’ll ask her.
I notice you take credit for introducing Johnny Depp to Kate Moss in the book. Tell me more about that.
I introduced Kate Moss to Johnny Depp at Café Tabac. It was the salon. Café Tabac was the place to see and be seen. Kate Moss walked in the room with Naomi [Campbell] and Johnny Depp was having dinner. And I dragged Kate over and said, “Kate, this is Johnny, Johnny, this is Kate,” not realizing that they would go on to destroy hotel rooms across the globe for the next 18 months.
As a creature of the New York downtown scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you must have a good Trump story.
Of course. I’ve known the Trumps forever. Ivana—I call her my “godmama”—she is the most amazing woman in the world. I’ve known Ivanka since she was 11-years-old.
How do you think she’s doing?
Ivanka is an amazing girl. I really adore her, but with what’s going on in the world right now and how this craziness has evolved...It’s very disappointing. Donald Trump—I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I’m disappointed to say the least.
Any personal run-ins with the Donald?
I remember the fist time I went to the Trump Tower. He had a party for Erté, who was this really eccentric, fey queen—to put it mildly. But he was brilliant. He was an artist and an illustrator. And to see Donald Trump with Erté, who really looked like a drag queen, and entertaining this man in Trump Tower...I look back at that and think, “How can Donald Trump be this islamophobic, homophobic, racist? Where did all this come from?” Because the Trump I knew back in the ‘80s, ‘90s, early aughts—he was nothing like this. I always remember that picture [I took of Trump and Erté]. Because I gave it to Ivanka, too. It kind of sums up what was then and what’s now. And it’s jarring.
If you could ask President Trump one question, as the master of the celebrity interview, what would it be?
The first question would be: What went wrong? What happened? Where did this madness come from? We’ve heard of the madness of King George, but the madness of Donald Trump is beyond anything that’s imaginable.
Is there anyone in the world right now you’d be particularly interested in interviewing?
I always wanted to interview Madonna. The first thing I’d ask is: How many abortions did you have? I love Lady Gaga. I love Rihanna—I’d love to interview her. I’d love to interview Emmanuel Macron. And even Vlad Putin, if he’d sit to talk with me. Because my whole spiel is high culture/low culture. I want to interview them all. I know that given the opportunity—an hour, 90 minutes—that I could bring something new and interesting and revealing that has never been revealed before about their lives, about their personas, about their story.
In your opinion, what is the state of the celebrity profile or interview? Because it seems like, with social media and the internet, everyone has access to celebrities in a way they might not have in the ‘80s and ‘90s or even early aughts.
Every celebrity has a Twitter or Instagram handle—or most of them do. But at the same time, it’s about them projecting what they want you to think about them, what they want you to know about them, what they want you to feel about them. So at the end of the day, there will always be room for a great magazine and great research and great talent, who will be brave enough to ask them the questions that really matter.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.