Radio's Wendy Williams plunges into world of TV talk

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Posted by on July 09, 2009 at 11:02:32:

Williams plunges into world of talk

TELEVISION | 'Oprah factor' won't faze N.Y. radio veteran

July 9, 2009

BY BILL ZWECKER | Chicago Sun-Times Columnist

There are no two ways about it: Wendy Williams is bigger than life. Spend an hour or so with the veteran New York radio star -- now jumping into the crowded world of daytime TV talk shows -- and you're quickly struck by the realization that the New Jersey native possesses a powerful level of confidence that matches her voluptuous, 6-foot-tall figure.

You also realize that this is one smart woman who isn't afraid to admit it has taken her all of her 45 years to get to the point in her life and career ''where I feel like I can tackle all this.''

''This'' is "The Wendy Williams Show," a new talk show that will air at 3 p.m. weekdays on WFLD-Channel 32 starting Monday (with nightly reruns at midnight).

Over the past 23 years, Williams has evolved to become one of the most successful daily DJs on New York radio -- known for her well-publicized spats with celebrities like Whitney Houston, and more recently ''The Apprentice'' contestant Omarosa and actress Jennifer Aniston on her syndicated radio show, ''The Wendy Williams Experience.''

As she turns to TV (after last summer's highly successful tryout in four television markets around the country), Williams swooped into Chicago recently to talk about, well, talk.
In famous footsteps

As a strong-willed African-American personality, Williams knows that many people will immediately bring up ''the Oprah factor, and if they don't mention Oprah in the first five minutes, they'll be sure to bring up Tyra [Banks],'' Williams said with a loud laugh.

She gets it, but she says it doesn't bother her.

''Look, really none of that is on my radar. Don't get me wrong, I'm honored to be in the company of those people -- Oprah, Tyra, Ellen [DeGeneres] and the rest -- but I'm thinking something else.

''This is such a great time for talk, especially with the economy still being so bad. Talk is cheap. Talk is free! This is such a great opportunity for all of us who have talk shows. There are now people home during daytime who normally would never have been home to catch any of the daytime talk shows. I'm very sorry that those people are out of work, or working less hours, but it does mean there are now millions of eyes out there able to catch me and everyone else doing talk shows."

Williams will not have a house band or a bandleader-sidekick. ''The audience is my sidekick. I will get right into the conversation -- we'll start every show with hot topics, the things everyone is talking about that day. The interview segment will come next. And then I'll have the advice segment, where I share my feelings and opinions with viewers and the audience about a wide range of subjects."

Williams knows many people who have heard her on the radio think of her as assertive and outspoken, but says, ''I have grown, matured and learned a lot about life and myself in the past 20 years. I'm not the same I was at 25 or 35, and I think that's true of many women -- and I reflect that too.

''I've learned to be more tolerant, but having said that, don't think I've gone soft. I don't take b.s. from anyone -- and I have an excellent nose when it comes to sniffing out b.s.!''

Beyond the flamboyant wigs, sexy clothes and raucous comments, Williams wants people to know, ''If you strip away the hair and the persona -- though that glamor thing is me, too -- if you get at the heart of me, I'm a family woman, as corny as that may sound.''

Williams proudly points to her parents' long marriage and her own union with husband and manager Kevin Hunter, the father of the couple's 9-year-old son, also named Kevin.

Keeping her distance

One mistake Williams promises she won't make: getting too cozy with guests and other celebrities who will cross her path, once her TV talk show is up and running.

''Honey, I don't have time to keep up with all that. Don't get me wrong. I'm a glamorous woman, but I like it on my own time, under my own circumstances. ... I have a husband, a son, a radio show I'm still going to do and now TV.''

Plus Williams, who made the New York Times best seller list with several of her five books, would like to churn out a few more.

''There are only so many hours in the day, and I do know all about how to pace myself. I didn't always -- but that's something else you learn with a bit of maturity.''

Williams knows that people are counting on her to represent her generation in what she hopes is a new twist on the world of talk.

''I've learned how to become a lady and I'm thrilled I'm getting my talk show in the age of Michelle Obama,'' who at 45 is the same age as Williams.

''This is not a black thing, it's an age thing,'' Williams hastened to add, explaining she feels a special bond with women of her age group.

''We all are this funky, sly, knowledgeable group of women, and I'm proud to be here and have this platform. So don't worry. I'm not going to blow it with some stupid shenanigans.''

Come Monday, we'll be tuning in to see Wendy Williams kick it all off.

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