When she did a six-week trial run of her daytime-television talk show last summer, it was painfully obvious that longtime radio host Wendy Williams wasn't too comfortable being on camera. "Yes, I was nervous. During day ONE of the trial run. Let it be known, during day ONE," Williams told us this week, lounging on a banquette at the back of the Gates nightclub during the launch party for what resulted from that trial run, the syndicated The Wendy Williams Show. "I shook off that nervousness, honey!" Williams went on. "I acknowledged it. The best way to get over something is to acknowledge it; I wish a lot of stars would get that memo."
After Monday's premiere episode (with guest Vanessa Williams), Wendy was a guest herself on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, a fellow "newbie" who's going to return the favor by appearing on Williams's show on July 20. "I gave him all this," she said, pointing to her ample body, poured into a skintight Hervé Léger minidress. "In my heels, I'm six foot four, sometimes six foot five." Williams, a wig connoisseur, had worn a special blonde curly mop for the occasion. "This is the show-wig–Jimmy Fallon–party-with-the-red-carpet wig," she said. "And I'll tell you the difference. I will gently take this off, put it on the wig mannequin, and go about my business tonight. I will wrap it up in a satin bag tomorrow, take it gently to my hair person, and give it to her. I would never wear this out with my husband in a convertible, or to T.G.I. Friday's with my son." She would wear it till the end of the party, she said, but she had her "street wig" in a bag nearby, ready to go.
As the party ramped up, Williams turned to business, mainly her noble quest to get Whitney Houston, who had given Williams a notoriously expletive-laced radio interview in 2007, to appear on the show. That day on the show, she'd begun the Whitney Watch, encouraging anyone with a connection to Houston to implore the singer to get in touch. "I'm talking to everyone who knows her. You know her?" Williams asked. (Disappointingly, we do not.) She was also doing digging to find out any of Houston's weaknesses — besides the obvious — to exploit. "Do you know what her weakness is?" (Disappointingly, we do not.) Barring a different plan, she was going to take the David Letterman–Oprah approach, by mentioning Houston on air every day until she appeared, though Williams hoped that would only last until Houston's album releases on September 1. Sensing another opportunity, Williams leaned into our tape recorder. "Print this: 'Hey Whitney, how you doin'? I'm looking for you! Love you! Mean it!'"
Related: Read Steve Fishman's 2005 profile of Williams in New York.