Brooke Shields comes to the cabaret
Brooke Shields has been famous for about as long as she’s been alive. Starting with an Ivory Soap commercial at the age of eleven months, Shields went on to a highly successful career in modeling, at fourteen the youngest to ever appear on the cover of Vogue and a year later making her mark in the still-famous Calvin Klein commercial with its tagline: "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."
Around the same time, she was starring in high-profile movies, including the controversial Pretty Baby at age twelve, and, as a teenager, The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love.
As an adult, Shields went on to appear in several more films, both theatrical and made-for-television, and appeared in several television series, including Friends, That ’70s Show, Nip/Tuck and Hannah Montana. From 1996-2000, she starred in Suddenly Susan, which brought her a Golden Globe nomination.
The actress also starred in Broadway revivals of Grease, Cabaret, and Wonderful Town.
Now married with two young daughters, Shields embarks on yet another adventure: her first nightclub act, bowing at Feinstein’s for two weeks beginning February 1st. Charlie Alterman from Next to Normal will be her musical director.
EDGE recently spoke with the icon-born, bred, and still living in New York-by phone about this new endeavor and other matters.
A New Yorker
EDGE: You and I are about the same age-
Brooke Shields: Twenty-eight?
EDGE: [Laughs] Uh, twenty-nine, actually. I feel as if I’ve grown up with you but I had no idea you were such a New Yorker. What does New York life offer that is different from, say, Los Angeles?
Brooke Shields: There isn’t any comparison. For me, LA has always been purely work-generated. Manhattan is its own entity, there’s an innate respect for it. If you are born and raised here, you find it not only one of the most cosmopolitan and versatile cities in the world, but it’s also a very warm city. This city offers anything you want. It’s a home; all you have to do is love it and embrace it.
EDGE: I have dubbed you the Princess of All Media. You have done it all: modeling, movies, television, stage, books. It makes sense to me that you now want to try nightclubs. I think it’s a difficult medium because there is no hiding. It’s very up close and personal. What are the challenges and highlights you are expecting from this new adventure?
Brooke Shields: You could not have said it better. It is one of the most difficult mediums. It’s the most terrifying thing imaginable.
But I’ve been very lucky. When the waters are cool in one area, like television, other things have opened up. In this case, I did Leap of Faith [Shields originated the role of Marva in the Los Angeles tryout] all last summer and while its move to Broadway has been postponed, I wanted to stay in shape and in a routine. I’ve been asked to perform at Feinstein’s before, but this time I felt that the universe was telling me I couldn’t say no. I’m terrified, but this is a gift.
Even being in a stage show is not the same as this kind of pressure. I knew it was going to be daunting, but I’m not letting fear get in the way. I’m very motivated by hard work.
No alternative rock!
EDGE: It’s a great opportunity to call your own shots and define yourself the way you want to be seen, not the way a casting director sees you.
Brooke Shields: This industry doesn’t value opinion. You are told what to do and you do it. Choice can be very frightening and I think, "My ideas can’t possibly be important." You have to write it yourself. I’m not necessarily comfortable being front and center as myself. You have to be engaging. Self-deprecation has been my savior!
EDGE: What kind of music can we expect?
Brooke Shields: I don’t want to disrespect the medium. It’s not going to be alternative rock! On the other hand, I’ve seen shows by Andrea Marcovicci, Christine Ebersole, Betty Buckley-people I’ve looked up to my entire life. I can’t do what they do and it’s not going to be an evening of Stephen Sondheim by Brooke Shields! It will be an eclectic song list. I started with songs I like to hear and sing and created a story around them.
EDGE: Of all the projects you’ve done, one of my favorites was the TV film What Makes a Family with Cherry Jones. That was really at the forefront of the debate about gay marriage and adoption that we’ve been seeing for the last several years. Having been in show business your entire life, do you feel a kinship with your gay fans and their causes?
Brooke Shields: I’ve been raised, in a sense, by the creative people I’ve been surrounded by my entire life. My Mom was known as Teri Terrific. She was the Grande Dame and I was the mascot; she was the fag hag and I was the fruit fly! I’ve lived most of my experience in that world of downtown. I was lucky to be born in that era of the entertainment and fashion world. I had Keith Haring in my life, and Andy Warhol! I saw Joey Arias when he was doing his own cabaret act. I was in one of the first issues of Paper and Kevyn Aucoin did the makeup. It was a unique experience being in the gay community before it was even known as the gay community. The kinship was innate, they were my extended family and they brought so much love, passion and creativity to my life. There was such a freedom then, and it was fabulous. Yet I was also protected. Only when I talk to magazines like yours is that life respected. It was an amazing experience and I haven’t lost my affection for it.
EDGE: You are one of the few who has made a smooth transition from child star to adult star. We all saw the heartbreak you went through with the loss of your friend Michael Jackson. You’ve also worked with Miley Cyrus. Have you been in a position to be able to advise her about the perils of growing up in the media glare?
Brooke Shields: It’s hard to offer unsolicited advice. A few years ago, people were asking if I’d called Britney Spears to advise her about post-partum depression. She doesn’t want to hear from me!
Who am I to say? I think I got really lucky. We were part of an era where you could remain unscathed. I never lived in California full-time. New York City was a grounding place for me, where I could talk about something other than the movie industry.
Also, I had an alcoholic mother so I saw firsthand the effects of that and had no desire to go that route. But whatever people want to say about my mother, she kept so much of the negative away from me and kept me on the straight and narrow. I started off on the right foot.
I also attribute a huge part of my success to education. I never missed school for work. College was a refuge. These kids today don’t have that base or something like that to look forward to.
I blame the parents. The money is amazing and it’s too much for young people. Michael is the perfect example. How would you like to grow up with a father like that? Life presents opportunities, good and bad, and you have to make the right choices. You have to have a strong support system.
EDGE: You have always been very outspoken about whatever issues come up in your life. This week there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the MTV show Skins because of the depiction of teenagers in sexual situations and various stages of undress. Having been a big part of such controversies when you were a teenager, I was wondering if you had an opinion about the show?
Brooke Shields: I haven’t seen the show and I’ve been under a rock rehearsing my own show. When I was that age, I had body doubles. We didn’t even get into the image we were projecting.
It’s terrifying as a Mom. I wanted to watch Glee with one of my daughters and I had to keep pausing it. She’s seven. She is sexualized just by watching iCarly!
When we were doing it, it was tame. It has gotten incrementally worse. Kids today are so aware. But I don’t think we are going to change things by getting on a soapbox.
The problem is, I’m sure what is portrayed is reality. I can’t believe what I hear coming out of sixth-graders. I try to impress upon my daughters the importance of their choice in friends. They have to find their own integrity.
We’ve become lowest common denominator, we probably always have been. But I don’t want to be holier than thou.
EDGE: Last question. My friend Russell wants to know if Latisse works for men.
Brooke Shields: [Laughs] Of course it does, I swear by it! But it only works for gay men and I have plenty of friends who can attest to it!
Brooke Shields appears nightly at Feinstein’s through February 12. Go to www.feinsteinsattheregency.com for details on times and prices.