New York Magazine – The Bitch is Back

A great piece here from way back when (1998, we think). New York Magazine conducted an interview with our dear friend Sandra Bernhard in Tea & Sympathy, and she caused something of a scene. But Sandra can do no wrong in our eyes! We’ve paraphrased here to include mention of Tea & Sympathy and Sandra talking about Princess Di. Click here if you’d like to read the whole thing.

The Bitch is Back

A new baby and a Broadway show may have rounded off her roughest edges, but don’t expect Sandra Bernhard to be . . . nice. Okay, Madonna?

By Jonathan Van Meter

A fabulous comic and a great friend of Tea & Sympathy

It’s two days before her 43rd birthday and exactly one month before she will give birth to seven-pound-ten-ounce Cicely Yasin, and the usually skinny, bitter Sandra Bernhard is — at least for now — fat and happy. It’s an early-June day, and Bernhard’s sitting at her favorite window seat at Tea and Sympathy, a tiny sandwich joint on Greenwich Avenue just across the street from her apartment, spooning chicken soup into that preposterous mouth of hers. She has about her an air of introspection and peacefulness — a glassy-eyed, almost narcotized quality. It’s as if nothing, or no one, could rattle her. Not today.

“People always say when you’re pregnant, you’re hormonally imbalanced and freaking out,” she says. “I feel more centered and more focused and less neurotic and fearful than I ever have in my whole life. For me, it’s been a really great stabilizer.” Bernhard has eaten a small meal just an hour before this lunch, and she will enjoy another small meal an hour after this lunch. That’s what being pregnant is all about, she says: “Snacky moments.”

Our lunch — brief, pleasant, mellow — is interrupted several times. Bernhard surveys the scene distractedly, until Nicky and Sean, the proprietors of Tea and Sympathy appear. They’re young, attractive, married, British, and very tan — just back from a two-week vacation on a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico, a place Bernhard visited, loved, and recommended to the couple. “Baby, how was your triiip?” Bernhard coos. “I just said to Mitch, my keyboard player, ‘I wonder how Nicky looks with a tan.’ You look gorgeous. I was thinking about you so much. I was sending you such good vibes. I kept saying, ‘I know that they’re relaxing, recouping . . . rejuvenating.‘ ” She freights that last word with so much over-the-top breathlessness — like a Vegas lounge singer — that, for a second, you question her sincerity. “Look at you, honey. Just what the doctor ordered, huh? How about that pool? And the beach? How divine was that?”

“So,” she says, turning back to me, “continue. Where were we?” Before she can answer my next question, her attention drifts away once again, this time to an exceptionally beautiful young blonde woman who has entered the restaurant with an older woman — also beautiful and blonde. “Hey, honey!” says Bernhard, louder than necessary. “How are you? Good to see you. You look cuuute.” People are now looking up from their menus. The blonde girl — a model, it turns out — seems a little embarrassed; Bernhard, too, squirms slightly. Then, turning to me, she laughs — a satisfyingly rich version of her very excellent laugh. She leans in closer as the women are seated just two tables away. “Well, she is cute,” she says, quietly defensive. “She’s gorgeous, I might add.”

Bernhard sneaks a look at them. “That must be her mother. The mother’s almost prettier than she is. Jesus, that apple didn’t fall far from that tree. Shit!” She shakes her head. “By the way, if you’re wondering who that model is, it’s Sarah O’Hare,” she says, in a self-conscious burst of insidery name -dropping. “It’ll be fun to throw her in.”…

…On Princess Di: “There was so much I wanted to say about the princess, but when I saw Steven Seagal speak so eloquently on CNN, I said to myself, ‘What do you have to contribute to this moment?’ It was such a rare and unique opportunity for so many stars and celebrities to express the repressed grief they’ve felt for things we can’t even begin to imagine. When Tom Cruise described how many times he drove through that tunnel, it gave me the chills. I said, ‘It’s the edgy shit that needs to go into your work, baby.’ “…

…At Tea and Sympathy, when I ask Bernhard if she’s been catching any grief for her send-ups of Mariah, Courtney, Madonna, et al., she says, “Yeah, it’s weird. More this time than ever. Mariah Carey never saw the show, but she heard about it. Sandy Gallin called me — he was her manager; he used to be my manager. I said, ‘Sandy, it’s not coming out of the show.’ ” She takes a second to process. “You know . . . it’s never really about that person. It’s really more of a comment on MTV and videos and the culture and how people really don’t even know themselves. They’ll pretty much do what they’re told to do because they have a gift — a good voice — but above and beyond that, they don’t really have a point of view. Which is okay, but it’s ripe for making fun of.”

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