Move over, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn! Make room for that ultra-modern, snap-crackling, wise-cracking couple, Aaron Sorkin and Maureen Dowd.
Emmy-winning "West Wing" creator Sorkin seemed determined to answer the questioning title of Dowd’s new book, “Are Men Necessary?” in the negative Monday night. He turned the author Q&A into a stammering, obsequious cross-examination of the ravishing redhead at her only Los Angeles book signing for The Writers Bloc, held at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.
Sorkin started off by apologizing: “I’m not a professional interviewer, but I have to think that my being able to question you in a synagogue full of people is a little nightmare for you.”
Then he focused on Dowd’s indisputable beauty. Rambling ad nauseum, he repeatedly asked her to address the fact that people talk more about her looks than William Safire’s, until she blushed and asked him to stop because “You’re embarrassing me.”
“The way you look is a factor in everything that people write about you,” Sorkin persisted. “It is, Maureen. You are the only female columnist at the New York Times. You are the only female columnist of note in the entire country, and I think that people expect you to look different and I’m just wondering if you want to talk about that?
“No,” clipped a sweetly smiling Dowd to the thunderous applause.
Next, Sorkin tried out an old joke. “You are the most respected, revered columnist in the country and you have a Pulitizer Prize and you dated me for a while. What was that like?”
"I asked you in the green room not to mention that," replied Dowd, smiling through gritted teeth. "It was fantastic, of course."
Photo: Presenter Maureen Dowd, ravishing in an emerald gown, at the Glamour Magazine 2005 Women of the Year Awards in New York.
(Larry Busacca / WireImage)
]]>Dowd did try to take control of the ill-fated Q&A, talking about what Shakespeare could have done with the Darth Vadar of D.C., Dick Cheney.
She also told tales about the time she was nearly jailed for wearing a sheer burka in Saudi Arabia, about the growing popularity of Barbie, fake boobs, Botox and Playboy Bunnies. Dowd then threw in intriguing, insightful remarks about the downslide of feminine consciousness where, she says, women have gone from fighting for equal rights in the ’60s to trying to find their “inner slut” today.
She praised Sorkin’s strong, well-written female characters on “West Wing” before asking, "Why, when women are running four of the six major studios, is Hollywood is still making moves portraying women as maids, shopgirls, hookers, ghosts and geishas?"
“Don’t encourage her,” Sorkin warned the wildly applauding audience, before patiently explaining, “Hollywood is about what is successful. The films that appeal to most women are films like ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary.’ Women like seeing films about how hard it is to get a date, then eating ice cream after a bad date and ultimately having a good date. It’s women who make these films successful.”
Sorkin admitted he often thought of Dowd while writing witty banter for actresses. And he did tell a funny, if slightly embarrassing, shoe fetish tale about Dowd, whom he met during the first season of "The West Wing" when he was shooting scenes in Washington, D.C.
“I wrote an off-screen character who was a powerful, highly feared female columnist for the New York Times. One of the White House staffers had inadvertently made a joke about her shoes and was afraid that the administration was going to suffer if he didn’t apologize.”
To thank Dowd for being “a good sport” about the thinly veiled reference, Sorkin sent her a slew of expensive shoes from Barneys the day the show aired.
“She liked them a lot,” recalled Sorkin. “But she told me that because she sometimes covers Hollywood in her column, to accept the gift was unethical. But she didn’t give back the shoes. What she has done, and this was five or six years ago, is, every once in a while, she will just give me cash. Forty, sixty, one hundred dollars … It’s not clear to me how giving me cash makes the ethical picture less murky, but it was terribly important to Maureen that this be done right and this is her version. She just gives me cash.”
“It’s gonna take me to the year 2030 to pay off those shoes,” confessed Dowd, still smiling, albeit not quite as sweetly.