Wendy Williams, gossip-monger, provocateur, verbal brawler. Wendy Williams, she of the big hair, unique fashion sense and barbed tongue.
Wendy Williams, TV star.
Here's a warning, and it's coming from Williams herself: If we just described the person you're coming to see Saturday night, when the outspoken Williams brings her "Sit Down Tour … Too Real For Stand Up" to the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric ... well, you might as well stay home.
"No, it's not talk-show Wendy," Williams, 51, says over a cellphone from New York City, heading for a plane that would take her to the next stop in her 12-city tour. "I'm not wearing a wrap dress or a sensible pencil skirt, I'm not talking about 'Hot Topics' — I mean, 'Hot Topics' may be 5 percent of my entire conversation. …
'I mean, what I am talking about, they're more about things that have happened to me. It's like, 'This has happened to me. Has it ever happened to you? All right, let's talk about it.' "
Williams hesitates for a moment, perhaps realizing that her description makes her live show sound too innocuous — an adjective few would ever apply to her. There will, she promises, be a certain bluntness, an unrelenting candor, to what she says from the stage. This will not be the sort of life-talk you can read about in Good Housekeeping.
"I'm talking about," she says, stressing the next word, "everything. From parents to children to spouses to private parts." Then comes yet another warning: "Unless you have a great relationship with your mom, don't bring your mom as your date. This is not that type of venue."
OK, got it. The talk-show host who has made a career out of picking fights with celebrities, dishing on everyone from Whitney Houston and Will Smith to Omarosa and NeNe Leakes? She'll be elsewhere Saturday night.
Instead, what will be hitting the Lyric stage will be a brash, uncensored, outrageous and (she promises) funny best-friend type, sharing stories and intimacies to which her audience should be able to relate.
"This tour … it's a full show," she says, "with staging and my set and a DJ and me and real kitchen-table talk. This is not the kind of conversation that anyone will ever hear me talk about on the talk show. Never, never, never in a million years — not only not on the talk show, but never on a red carpet, never on YouTube. Nope, nope. It's strictly for the night."
Hopefully, you get the idea. Because, when it comes to what to expect when she walks onstage, that's about as detailed as Williams wants to get. It'll be outrageous, it'll be funny and it'll be for adults only. Further prodding only yields monosyllabic "yes" and "no" answers.
"Most of the things you are asking me will be a surprise on the night of the show," she says good-naturedly, but firmly. "I'm saying 'yes' and 'no' because I'm not telling you. Everyone has to come to the show to see what is going on."
It's clear, however, that the "Sit Down Tour" offers Williams a way to stretch beyond her stereotype, the one that's been honed in the public eye over the course of a nearly 30-year career that started with working as a local DJ. The idea, she says, was to find new worlds to conquer.
"You know, last year, when I turned 50, I was asked, 'What do you want to do for your 50th birthday?' " she says. "And I said, 'Well, I don't know. I just want to maintain everything I have. Everything is good.' But they were, like, 'No, you have to do something big. … You're funny, so we're going to put you in comedy.' "
The immediate result was a gig at the Venetian in Las Vegas, before a crowd of about 750. The audience liked what they heard ("I got a standing O.V.," Williams says with pride) and she soon found herself booked on a 12-city tour that, before Baltimore, has included stops in Milwaukee (where it began July 30), Kansas City, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston and Memphis, Tenn. It finishes up Aug. 29 in Chicago.
The current tour is also a way, Williams says, for her to show the public she's more than "Hot Topics" on her nationally syndicated show (which returns for Season 7 on Sept. 14) and celebrity feuds — a reputation, she believes, that is at least somewhat undeserved. Not that she's really complaining.
"Here's the thing," Williams says. "I don't do anything different than a lot of other outlets. It's just that I, for whatever reason, get particularly targeted. I don't appreciate that on the one hand.
"On the other hand, me being targeted and standing out, for whatever reason, has helped me get a fantastic, illustrious career."