Sept. 7, 2010 -- On "Project Runway," he plays the steadfast arbiter of style, the perpetually calm father-figure, the mentor who commands to contestants, "Make it work."
But in his new book, Tim Gunn doesn't play nice. He outs the divas and dictators of the fashion world one by one and eviscerates a few Hollywood celebrities as well.
"Gunn's Golden Rules," on sale today, offers insight into the upbringing and etiquette of the "Project Runway" personality and Liz Claiborne chief creative officer by dispensing juicy gossip about the famous people who violate his standards of decency. With dirt like this out in the open, New York's spring/summer fashion week, which starts Thursday, might turn from a high society schmooze fest into a no holds barred free-for-all.
On fighting Michael Kors , designer and "Project Runway" judge: An interviewer once asked me, "Who would win in a fight, you or Michael Kors?" "Oh that's easy: Michael Kors," I said. "Because I'm a hair puller, and he barely has any hair. There's not enough to hold on to."
On Lindsay Lohan's aptitude for fashion design: A New York magazine reporter asked me at a party how I felt about Lindsay Lohan designing for Emanuel Ungaro. I was taken aback because I hadn't heard anything about it until then. I said that if it was true, "It's got to be a publicity stunt. Or a crack-smoking board of directors?" How I said it was a little blunt, but I stand by the sentiment. I mean, Lindsay Lohan knows how to buy things, but does she know how to design? And if she does, then at that level?
On Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' penchant for putting high heels on their 3-year-old daughter, Suri: Speaking of inappropriate, have you seen all the tabloid photos of three-year-old Suri Cruise wearing heels? It's outrageous. People say, "She's setting a fashion standard." I say, "Preposterous!" At three? It's not appropriate. If you're going to the play ground to play, you should wear sneakers -- Mary Janes at the very most. ... I agree with the people who have said it sexualizes her. High heels are meant to make women look longer and leaner. That's not necessary for little girls. We don't want alluring little girls. There's something sick about it.
On designer Diane Von Furstenberg's curious demand for a hot dog at a fashion industry event in New York City: "I need a hot dog," she announced to me in her languid voice ... "Why is there no food at these things?" Diane asked me. "They fill you with booze but give you nothing to eat. Do you think there's a hot-dog vendor on the street? Oh, and I haven't any money."
This struck me as a little odd. Remember, this is Princess Diane von Furstenberg, now divorced from the prince and married to a member of American royalty, the billionaire Barry Diller. She had a car and driver sitting out front. Surely there were a few dollars in there for tolls and such? But no.
"Don't worry," I assured her. "I can treat us each to a hot dog. Let's see what we can find outside."
According to Gunn, they exit the event and in the absence of a hot dog vendor, head to a diner.
While I tried to catch the eye of a waitperson so we could sit down, the famished Diane grew impatient. After sighing heavily, she called out to the rather cavernous space, "I need a hot dog! Someone, anyone, please bring me a hot dog!"
Finally, Gunn writes, von Furstenberg gets her hot dog, as well as french fries, pickles and onion rings.
Diane had two bites of the hot dog, a couple of French fries, and then didn't even touch the onion rings. When we got up to leave, the people in the next booth leaped to their feet and asked whether they could take a picture with us. I'm always game and was about to oblige, but Diane stepped in and held her hand up.
"I'm sorry, darlings," she purred, "but we're late for an event where we're both needed very badly. We don't have time for a picture, but here, have some onion rings!" And she handed her stunned fan the basket.
I'm not sure what the moral is here ... I really just wanted to tell that story. But maybe it's that declaring to a room full of strangers, "I need a hot dog!" won't get you what you want no matter who you are, unless you follow protocol and sit down and order like a regular person.
On Vouge magazine Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour being carried down five flights of stairs by her two massive bodyguards.
I was at Peter Som's show at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West Eighteenth Street. It was held on the fifth floor, and there was one large freight elevator. Knowing Anna was a Peter Som fan and knowing she famously dislikes riding in elevators with other people, I thought, How will she ever get down? ... And as the lights come up, bam, Anna's gone!
I was there with a colleague from Parsons [the design school at which Gunn taught for more than two decades], and we had been discussing the will-she-or-won't-she-take-the-elevator question, so we ran over to the elevator bay to see if Anna would deign to get on. She wasn't there. Then we looked over the stairway railing and what did we see but Anna being carried down the stairs. The bodyguards had made a fireman's lock and were racking her from landing to landing. She was sitting on their crossed arms.
I ran to the window to see if they would put her down on the sidewalk or carry her to the car like that. They carried her to the car. And I thought: I will never forget this.
On designer and talk show host Isaac Mizrahi: Don't even get me started on Isaac Mizrahi. In my view, he's one of the world's biggest divas. One time, Isaac threw a fit about a security guard from the second-floor showroom at Liz Claiborne Inc.'s Times Square offices. Why, you may ask? Was he stealing? Harassing guests? showing up late? No, he was wearing brown.
On mogul Martha Stewart's crusade against Diet Coke: One time when I was on Martha Stewart's show, she visited me in the greenroom. I threw out my arms to embrace her, but in lieu of a greeting she asked with a tone of horror, "Who let youinhere with that?" She pointed to the Diet Coke I was drinking. "No one," I said. "Someone brought it to me." "W-what?" she stammered. "I don't allow Died Coke in this studio. It's not to be anywhere around me. I'm going to findout who's done this." And she stormed off.
Then later she made an off-camera announcement to her audience about how they shouldn't drink Diet Coke, either. She gave me a lecture in front of the audience about how bad Diet Coke is. Something about the chemicals? I couldn't even focus on what she was saying because of how vehemently she was saying it.
On Martha Stewart's relationship with her daughter, Alexis: Martha's daughter, Alexis Stewart, strikes me as one of the angriest people I have ever met. Alexis and I did a commercial together for Martha's Macy's line. Whoever was directing the commercial was wise enough to have Alexis and me do our lines together before bringing Martha in.
Alexis kept cursing under her breath in anticipation of her mother coming, saying things like, "god****ed b***h," almost as if she had Tourette's syndrome. I was shocked that she could be so disrespectful toward her mother in front of total strangers. I also found it deeply ironic that the domestic goddess seems to have such an odd relationship with her daughter. ... During one of our little breaks on the Macy's commercial set, Martha gestured to the piles of linens and towels from her new collection and said, "Alexis, any of this you want for your apartment, please take it. I want to give you a housewarming present." It seemed like such a touching and generous gesture. "I wouldn't touch a single solitary item of this crap!" Alexis said, glowering.
On (presumably) Padma Lakshmi, the host of "Top Chef." I received an e-mail recently from a certain glamorous hos tof "Top Chef." I won't say who she is, but she was once married to a world-famous novelist who received death threats.
She told me that she was looking for a jewelry designer for her line and I said I would put my radar up and send her anyone I found who might be a good fit. Well, I found someone terrific ... Then I never heard back. Nor did the designer. I was so embarrassed. Here I had this great jewelry designer all excited and then it was as if I'd made up the whole gig. ... I have to assume she didn't really want my help after all, so I'll keep that in mind if she ever asks for anything again.
On Andre Leon Talley, contributing editor for Vogue magazine, being hand fed grapes and cheese at a New York Public Library panel, instead of participating in a sound check with Gunn and the other panel participants: When we return to the greenroom, we see that someone has spread a translucent barber's bib over Andre and he's reclining, his arms at his sides. He's being fed grapes and cubes of cheese one by one, like a bird in a nest.