From Sex and the City to her latest book Is There Still Sex in the City?, Candace Bushnell has been writing stories for and about her alter ego Carrie Bradshaw for nearly 30 years, and now she’s ready to take her stories back and perform them herself in an exciting one-woman-show at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 9 at 8 p.m. The the international bestselling writer will take the audience on a whirlwind behind-the-scenes tour of NYC, from Studio 54 to Sex and the City to Lipstick Jungle and beyond.
A Conversation with Candace Bushnell
Since you’ve been spending more time in the Hamptons, would you ever consider creating a “Sex and the Hamptons” in some capacity?
I wrote a column in Hamptons magazine in 1990 and 1991 called “The Human Cartoon” and it was kind of a precursor to Sex and the City. It was about society, people out here young people, sex, clubs, relationships, the social kind of fabric of the place, how it operated.
I put the Hamptons in really a lot of my books. Especially 4 Blondes, which has quite a bit about the Hamptons and then another book called Trading Up, and at that time, I was in the Hamptons a lot, and I love the Hamptons. So I put the Hamptons in quite a few of my books. I feel like it’s always an interesting environment, and actually Is There Still Sex in the City? it’s really all about the Hamptons; it’s all about Sag Harbor. It’s all about me moving to Sag Harbor, which I did do in 2016.
I ended up being here with lots and lots of girlfriends who were all single, who ended up unexpectedly getting divorced. And this is really part of the show Is There Still Sex in the City? And as soon as they were divorced, all these friends once again started talking about sex, relationships, dating, and we started having crazy dating adventures out here.
So, that’s really the impetuous for the book Is There Still Sex in the City? and the show Is There Still Sex in the City? And the show, it’s really about how I created Sex and the City, how hard I worked to get there, why I invented Carrie Bradshaw, and then it moves on to Is There Still Sex in the City?
So I feel like, yes, I’ve done it, “Sex and the Hamptons,” and I’m still doing it, I promise you. I feel like I’m still having adventures, people are still having adventures out here. The Hamptons certainly, in some ways it’s an offshoot of New York. You know you have the same people out here. They’re ambitious, they’re aspirational, they’re interested in things, they like to go out, they like to do things, have experiences. …
When you were originally writing the Sex and the City column, did it cross your mind that you might be performing these stories one day?
No. When I was a child, I had two younger sisters, and my parents didn’t want us to watch TV. Of course, we watched like an hour of TV. My father always wanted us to do something constructive, so we had lots of puppets, we had marionettes, we had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, we had instruments, and we had costumes. We would always put on these little shows, I would write them. I think they were horrible. My sister would play the piano and instruments, and then my other sister, we would try and get her to do stuff, whatever we didn’t want to do, which she usually objected to. But, I remember doing it as a kid and thinking, “Oh, I love this, this really what I should be doing, some kind of show,” and that’s how I felt when I was a kid I was like, “I could do this every day of my life, this is amazing.”
Then I grew up and I was like, “What the hell was I even thinking?” Making a show? No, that’s crazy. But I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I pursued writing. I wrote fiction, and I worked for writing articles for magazines for money and really pursued publishing books, et cetera. So, I absolutely did not imagine it, and actually, when I was writing Sex and the City, I also had a TV Show on VH1, a reality show, like one of the first reality shows. It was like VH1 had just started, and you know there was a part of me that hated it. I had to sit in front of the mirror for two hours getting my hair and makeup done. Which, I thought, “This would turn a person into a narcissist.” Because you start worrying about every little flaw, and I was like, “I can’t live like this.” …
I really wasn’t thinking about performing, however, I did always do lots of lectures. I had a lecture agent and I, at one point, did about 12 a year. I made pretty good money back then because it was the ’90s and 2000s, you know, people pay. I liked being in front of an audience, but, because I felt like it wasn’t really my job, I would never write a speech. I just ad libbed, I did it off the cuff and ad libbed every time. And I had notes, which now when I think about it, is absolutely a crazy thing to do. But I don’t know, I would just get up and talk.
Huh, you’d think that’s what would come the most naturally to a writer: writing the speech.
For some reason, I just didn’t want to do it. Writing is hard; it’s very time-consuming. People think for some reason, “Oh, just dash off those 1000 words.” No. I used to feel like writing an email was a nightmare because it would take an hour to write an email. That’s the way it is if you’re a writer.
What sparked the inspiration to now turn these stories into a one-woman-show?
I met my producer Marc Johnston, and he is David Foster’s manager. … And so Marc developed a show with him that toured, The David Foster Show. I met Marc, and he said, “I think I can do the same thing for you, we can come up with a show.” He said it needs to have this, this and that in it. So I said, “I’ll give it a try, why not.”
I didn’t necessarily think anything was going to happen. But that’s very much in my nature to just sit down and write something, whether or not I think it’s going to work, just to see if I can do it and if I can figure out what the structure is. In some ways, I just do that for fun. … I like the process of it — I get up, have my tea, write, walk around my yard, think about things, solve the writing problems, and I really feel like I’m getting something done. I’ve done quite a few things where someone’s like, “What do you think about this idea?” and I’ll just write something down. Usually at some point I’ll end up being happy I did it because somebody will say, “Hey what about this idea?” and I’ll say, “Oh, I have an outline for just that thing.”
That was how it came about. And then he started talking to people, “Would you be interested in a show with Candace Bushnell?” and a lot of people said yes, and we found a director (Lorin Latarro) who works a lot on Broadway, and we started doing it. And we got involved with the Bucks County Playhouse, which is a renowned little theater company in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, New Hope. That was my first time really doing a stage production.
I had no idea what to expect, and I was all of sudden thrown into this role of being a performer on stage with all these people — there were like 50 people involved. I was like, “Wait, I thought it was going to be me and a microphone.” No. There’s a whole set, there are costume people, I had costume changes. I have a dresser, somebody who helps me get dressed, I have to wear Spanx, and I’m wired up like a robot, and I’ve got a microphone in my head.
And that I have never done before, and at first I was like, “Wait,” I was not in any way prepared. I had no idea what it would be like to be a performer in a real stage production, but then I just did it. And it’s a pretty different thing, and it’s hours of rehearsing, and things that I’ve never done before.
The one thing that I figured out is is that, lets face it, as a novelist, you don’t have to exercise that much; as a performer, you do. You have to exercise. So that was something that I started doing.
So, no I would’ve never expected to do that. And then, I even did a bathing suit campaign for Summersault. It’s an Instagram campaign. I did a bathing suit shoot, which is another thing I never thought of doing when I was writing Sex and the City. I would say that, yes, I am doing a lot of things I had never imagined that I would do. When I was writing Sex and the City, I was really thinking of what my life would be like, and what it was like after I wrote Sex and the City, which was that I was a bestselling novelist and wrote novels, and I love doing it.
With your career still evolving and all these new doors opening, it’s exciting that you’re going to have many more stories to tell.
Yes, that is definitely true. And I think that’s true for everyone in their life. Don’t we all want more stories to tell? I think that none of us just want to say, I’ve got no more stories. Although, in general, that’s what people think happens to people when they get over a certain age. When you get over the age of 50 or 60, people just think you’ve got no more stories, nothing else is ever going to happen to you. So I think that’s, in some ways, the challenge, is to keep the stories going, keep doing things, keep hoping to have opportunities.
For tickets and more info, visit whbpac.org.