Walters Does Cleopatra
Maggie Van Ostrand
The venerable Barbara Walters has consented to conduct her first post-semi-retirement
interview at the personal request of Cleopatra. "Diane Sawyer wanted
me," said the elusive Egyptian Queen, "but without Mike Nichols directing,
Following is a documented transcript of the Walters-Cleopatra taped
interview as surreptitiously obtained by an imbedded reporter. Film
is being processed.
WALTERS: I’m so happy you could make it to our studio, your Highness.
CLEOPATRA: No, no, not Highness. The correct title is Your Pharaohness.
First the title went to my elder sister, Cleopatra VI, a terrible
person. Had her husband strangled. I have the same name as she did,
Cleopatra. However, since you are a celebrity yourself, you may call
me by my nicknumber: VII.
WALTERS: I don’t quite know how that would work, since they are Roman
numerals and you are Egyptian. Have I told you that my favorite interview
was with another Egyptian, Anwar Sadat?
CLEOPATRA: Enough about him. Let’s talk about me. First, I’m not Egyptian,
I was born on the south side of Macedonia. Second, I’m here to plug
my new show, “As The Nile Turns,” which premieres on HBO in June right
after the new season of “The Sopranos” debuts. What a slot! They expect
our Nielsons to go through the roof.
WALTERS: Is “The Sopranos” your favorite TV show?
CLEOPATRA: Carmela should stop complaining to the priest about life
with Tony. After all, I had to marry my own 11-year-old brother; Now
that’s what I call really disgusting. Besides there's something very
endearing about Jim Gandolfini; in many ways he’s like my Julius.
WALTERS: You’re referring of course to your lover, Julius Caesar?
CLEOPATRA: No, I’m referring to my lover Julius Epstein. We shared
an apartment in Jersey City for several months. It was there that
he wrote the screenplay for “Casablanca.” I wanted him to call it
“Alexandria,” but you know these unpredictable Hollywood types.
WALTERS: I certainly do! Speaking of Hollywood, did you know that
I danced with Al Pacino when I interviewed him?
CLEOPATRA: Yes he told me, but he said Janet Jackson is better at
the Tango. She’s more supple, and a better height for him.
WALTERS: Speaking of Janet Jackson, I’ve interviewed her brother,
Michael. Have you ever met him?
CLEOPATRA: Not really. I did, however, see Michael's current trial
recreated on E!
WALTERS: Do you think he's guilty?
CLEOPATRA: Based on the fact that Pinocchio's nose grows when he lies,
Michael must be telling the truth since he has no nose at all.
We almost met when he made the video, “Remember The Time.” He was
upset with me because I turned his project down so I could hang out
with an archer from Crete.
Michael got even by using not me but Queen Nefertiti instead. He could’ve
at least used me as technical advisor. I never would’ve let him cast
Iman in that role. She’s too tall. I happen to know that Nefertiti
was only 4’-8”. That's even shorter than Elizabeth Taylor who played
me in the movie. I was the one who introduced her to Richard Burton.
I got along just fine with Michael, but my kid brother didn't like
him much. He didn't care for it when Michael tried to lick the top
of his head. He's even worse than Caligula who at least kept the dirty
stuff within his own family.
WALTERS: VII, I hate to seem the hardboiled reporter here, but in
the name of Edward R. Murrow, you must admit that you caused as much
scandal as Nefertiti and King Tut combined.
CLEOPATRA: So what? I came along over 1300 years later when playing
around was better tolerated. You know Barbara, I’m not the Sphinx.
I actually got it on with Mel Brooks even before he turned 2000. I
cooperated fully with the paparazzi. I’d rather see my sexcapades
in print and then call my lawyers. I had style, much of which I passed
on to Cher.
WALTERS: You’ve known just about everybody. What do you regard as
your greatest legacy to mankind?
CLEOPATRA: Real estate values. They hit a new high everywhere we lived.
We must’ve made a fortune in commissions for ReMax; of course back
then it was the original, known simply as Max.
WALTERS: I mean what legacy of lasting value?
CLEOPATRA: The C-section, without a doubt. When Marc moved in with
me, we wanted kids and it seemed practical at the time.
WALTERS: You’re referring to Marc Antony?
CLEOPATRA: Yes. We had a volatile relationship to say the least. He
told me he was going for a pack of cigarettes, but it turned out he
went to Rome and married another woman. He eventually came back to
me though. They always do, whether they’re rulers or rug salesmen.
WALTERS: Were you pleased with the casting of Marc Antony in the 1963
film version of your life?
CLEOPATRA: Are you kidding? In real life, Marc looked more like Woody
Allen than Richard Burton, only Marc wore contacts. You can imagine
how anybody’d look good to a woman who spent as much time as I did
Confidentially, Marc was quite vulgar and could be very irritating.
He used to hog all the blankets at night. And temper? You wouldn’t
believe how he lost his cool when some kids stole the hubcaps off
WALTERS: I really appreciate your being so frank.
CLEOPATRA: Ahh, Frank, now that’s another story. No one could sing
like Frank. I had all his CDs. I had him, too. He could put you in
the mood better than anyone else. Now I’m all tingly.
WALTERS: Is there someone in today’s world who could make you tingle?
CLEOPATRA: I wouldn’t mind a liplock with Russell Crowe. A hirsute
alpha if ever I saw one. In the long run though, nobody can touch
Steve McQueen. In fact, I'm seeing him tonight. I'm wearing a Vera
Wang so he absolutely won't be able to resist me.
WALTERS: Goodnight everybody. See you next week on Century-Century.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
May 15, 2005 column