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One On 1 Profile: Long-Time Gossip Columnist Cindy Adams Knows The New York Scene Like No One Else

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Next month, Cindy Adams will be inducted into the Deadline Club's Hall of Fame, securing her place in the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She has quite a story, and she has many stories to tell. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One on 1 profile.

If you're going to interview Cindy Adams about her life, you'd better be ready to give and to receive.

Adams: You're going back in the 15th century.
Mishkin: You were -38 at the time, of course.
Adams: This is so good. I'm going to have to watch you more often.

Her gossip column has appeared in the New York Post for more than 30 years. Not that I was worried. Well, maybe a little.

"If I come off looking lousy and fat and with lines in my face, you are going to hear from me, column-wise," she says.

Duly noted.

Cindy Adams has written about and been a part of New York's social scene for a long time.

"I love the part of writing," she says. "Basically, I would like to stay home with some chicken fat on my face and no makeup on and just write about people."

Her work, which covers the walls of one of the rooms of her apartment, has often landed her on the front page of the Post.

She's mingled with a wide variety of prominent New Yorkers, including the late Cardinal O'Connor.

"He would invite me to his home behind the cathedral for breakfast, and he always served bagels," she says.

She's also mingled with John Gotti.

"Gotti was very good to us," she says. "I'm not saying he was a nice man."

She's also interviewed world leaders.

"When the Shah was dying in New York Hospital, he sent for me," she says.

When former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was in jail in Florida, who did he call?

Adams: I pick up the phone, and he says, "Cindy, it is the general." I said, "Oh, honey, how nice to hear from you."
Mishkin: Noriega, Sukarno, the Shah?
Adams: I'm big with dictators. What am I going to tell you?

A birthday party for her husband, Joey Adams, once featured a guest list that included Gotti, Imelda Marcos and others, which prompted her husband to say, "If you're indicted, you're invited."

"The thought was, if I can get a front page, that's all I'm interested in," Adams says. "I didn't care about what they did with their lives afterwards. I'm not their priest. I was their ability to get them on a front page. That's all I cared about."

Occasionally, it's not just about the front page. Her friend, Bess Myerson, the former commissioner of Consumer Affairs and then Cultural Affairs, was on trial in 1988 for conspiracy, fraud and bribery. She was acquitted.

Adams says that during the trial, the Post would call, asking if she could tell them where Myerson was. Adams said no.

"She was in my house every night after court," Adams says. "She would come home and I would give her tuna fish or chicken soup or something, and we would talk, and I would hold her hand, and never, never did I give her up. I never wrote the stories about her until after it was all over and she said I could."

Cindy Adams grew up in the '30s and '40s on Long Island, then Manhattan and Queens.

It's safe to say that no one else has interviewed the Shah of Iran and also been dubbed "Miss Bagel" by the Brooklyn Better Bagel Association.

"I was 16," she says. "They gave me a crown of bagels that were shellacked, and I wore it on my head, and I have been trying to live it down for the last 500 years."

Two people have essentially shaped her life. One is her mother, who gave her love and a strong sense of humor. The other is her husband, comedian Joey Adams.

"Joey loved me and adored me, and he was the same age as my mother," she says. "Exactly the same age, and I lost them both within three months of each other."

It was his second marriage, and Adams says he didn't want young children.

"I'd come from nothing, and here I was having dinner with the most famous people in the world. So whatever Joey wanted at that point was OK with me," Adams says. "And I never pushed for a family 'cause he didn't want one. And would I like to have had it now? Yes. But I gave it up because it didn't work for us."

Her husband brought her into the world of show business, and eventually to her now famous gossip column in the Post, which she initially turned down.

"I was going to dinner with the Frank Sinatras of the world," she says. "Did I then want to go into business where I was going to write about Frank Sinatra and say bad things about him?"

She eventually agreed. Her column became a part of New York, and she was on WNBC for years.

She's written several works of biography and nonfiction, though she is primarily known as one of the queens of New York gossip. But she deplores what gossip has become.

"It has gotten far too venal," she says. "I'm waiting for somebody to put a camera in a bathroom and shoot up. There's no limit to it."

I asked Adams if the Post has played a role in this.

Mishkin: Ever been times you've looked at it and said, 'Wait a minute. This is contributing to what I'm talking about?
Adams: I should not-the paper that feeds me.
Mishkin: So all's fair in love and war because?
Adams: I love the New York Post. It is gritty, it is funny, it is spicy, it is all the things that the city is. Does it go too far? Sure. We all go too far.

I tried to ask whether her column reflects who she truly is, only to get lost in mid-question. Adams, as usual, got right to the point.

"It's a good question. You're struggling to make it charming and warm," she says. "You're asking me, basically, are you a rotten person when people think you're a rotten person, when you write smart-ass stuff, is what you're basically asking me."

Adams then responded by talking about one of her lifelong friends, Barbara Walters, one of many who came to the fore when Adams was ill in 2010.

"She will say, 'I'm always there if she needs, she's always there if I need,'" she says. "We know each other's secrets. So I'm a real person. I may change after meeting you, but I have been, up until now, a real person."

Especially in the aftermath of the deaths of her mother and husband in 1999, her friends are her family.

Then there is her favorite topic: her beloved dogs, Jazzy and Juicy.

Mishkin: What's the joy of this?
Adams: Are you crazy? Are you sick? I mean, I love them, please, more than anything else in the entire world. I have a nine-room apartment. They run the whole thing.

As the interview was coming to an end, I did something I've never done before in an interview: got down on one knee to apologize. Why? Long ago, I'd used part of the catchphrase that's helped her become a New York fixture, and I didn't give her credit.

Adams: The only thing that I've added was kids. Only in New York, kids. Only in New York. But lawyers have gone through it for years, and they can't trademark it because you can't trademark New York. And everybody has stolen it, and I get really cranky.
Mishkin: I didn't use kids, for the record. I left out the kids part.
Adams: You're a wonderful human being.

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