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BOOKS Clinton Kelly talks love and 'Hate'
by Owen Keehnen

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The Clinton Kelly memoir I Hate Everyone, Except You has just come out in paperback. In the book, the star of What Not To Wear and The Chew talks about growing up gay, his search for love and acceptance, co-star Stacy London, husband Damon and much more.

Windy City Times: How did you come up with the title for the book?

Clinton Kelly: I wanted to encapsulate my mood in one sentence, but in a joking way. When things aren't going your way and you say, "I have everyone," but then realize you are with a friend or your husband so you add, "except you, of course." I wanted that to convey the tone of the book. I don't really hate anybody. It's very tongue in cheek.

WCT: And it establishes a sort of confidentiality with the reader too. What is the biggest misconception people have about you?

CK: That I care what they're wearing, because the truth of the matter is, I don't. You should care what you're wearing, not me. People imagine I spend my time in the streets of NYC commenting on women's shoes and things. That was a TV show. I was paid to do that. That's not who I am.

WCT: Going along with that, in What Not to Wear, you and Stacy London did fashion makeovers on [more than] 300 women. If you did the same thing with gay men, what do you imagine would be the most common fashion misstep you would find?

CK: This is tricky because I don't really pay attention. The one criticism I might have is that it seems a little uniform at times. Recently, I was in West Hollywood and went to get coffee and every gay guy in the place was wearing a tropical shirt, short shorts, and pool slides. I didn't have a problem with the look, but with the lack of variety. The other thing that makes this tricky is I can't tell who's gay and who's not anymore— not by the way they dress. I like the fact that so many heterosexual men are starting to embrace fashion.

WCT: With What Not to Wear and the cooking show The Chew, you've become a highly visible gay man. What is the biggest surprise you've found about being so recognizable?

CK: It's both wonderful and terrible. I've had women cry their eyes out telling me how I've changed their lives for the better. Raising the self-esteem of so many women was never something I set out to do and I'm grateful for having a positive impact in the world in that way. The bad part of fame is that I might wake up tomorrow to an email that says I'm going to burn in hell because I'm a fag, or I'm not funny and too ugly to be on television. People can be so mean sometimes. Anybody who puts themselves out there can be the target of the same sort of vitriol. You don't have to be famous. That's just a downside of living in today's society.

WCT: Congrats on winning an Emmy Award for The Chew. Where do you keep it?

CK: I keep it in the guest bathroom. I felt like anywhere else would be too showy and a closet seemed disrespectful to the Emmy. The guest bathroom works. I feel like my guests are more impressed by it that I am.

WCT: In I Hate Everyone, Except You, you share several fish-out-of-water anecdotes about growing up gay on Long Island. Have they come to embrace your success?

CK: Yes. I went to my 25th high-school reunion a few years ago and people were just great. I thought, "Wow, so many of you were real dick-bags back in the day and now we're posing for photos together." I don't know if that's being on TV or people just growing up and stop being idiots, at least some of them. The reunion was really important for me because back in high school all I could think was, "I'm going to show them someday."

WCT: In your book you mention not being a fan of Paula Deen. What cooking personalities who've appeared on your show have impressed you the most?

CK: Most cooking personalities don't impress me that much, except for Ina Garten. She is everything you'd dream she would be. After she was on The Chew a few times, we struck up a casual friendship. This past Christmas season my husband and I went to Paris and we got together with Ina for lunch. She was so incredibly charming and the next day took us to her favorite bakery, and her favorite cheese shop and bought us ice cream. As we were eating the ice cream I turned to Damon and said, "Can you believe we're hanging out with Ina Garten?"

WCT: What food would it be impossible for you to live without?

CK: I don't think I could live without cheese. And wine. And really good coffee.

WCT: Reading your book I was really impressed by your flow from one career path to another—freelance writer, editor, What Not To Wear, The Chew, writing scripts, etc. Any idea as to your future career path?

CK: I have a script deal in the works, but nothing has been signed. I've had a career philosophy from the beginning that I am only going to take a job if I love it, if I think it can be fun, or if I think I can learn something from it. When it stops being fun or I stop learning, it's time to move on. Then I put it out to the universe to send me another opportunity and if something comes along that looks right, I'll take it. That philosophy has worked for me. I believe if you're doing something you love, your energy and enthusiasm gets rewarded.

WCT: Chicagoans will be interested to know you worked at Cornelia's Restaurant on Cornelia and Halsted in 1992 when you were at Northwestern for journalism. What was your favorite Chicago thing to do?

CK: I loved show tunes at Sidetrack. It was so much fun. It always felt like a unified group of people having a great time. I used to love to go line-dancing there as well. I also went to Roscoes a lot.

WCT: Congratulations on your 2009 marriage to Damon and your happy home in Connecticut. What's your secret to a good relationship?

CK: Damon is a psychologist, so all we do is communicate! But in all seriousness, that is so important because you can't expect other people to read your mind. I think getting married at an older age helps. Know what you don't want in a relationship and make mistakes, so you can recognize a good guy when you find one. Also, you cannot expect any person to complete you. That's why you need friends and family. You can't get mad at your spouse for not being everything you need.

WCT: What individual has been your most surprising inspiration?

CK: Mr. Rogers. There was something about him that when I watched him as a kid that affected my entire life. He was calm and fastidious and creative. I liked his overall sense of life—be calm, be nice, take your time and do things right.

WCT: What do you want readers of I Hate Everyone, Except You to come away knowing about Clinton Kelly?

CK: I want to connect with the readers I can connect with and if you don't connect with me, that's fine too. I'm kind of a nice guy who's done some stupid things in life and made his career in television. Aside from that I'm a normal human being who has lived a fun life.

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