“Cupcakes,” Alexis Stewart says a minute after we’ve met on a Thursday afternoon in late August. Barely smiling, she hands over a shiny brown box tied with thin, Champagne-colored satin ribbon. Inside are six cupcakes fastened into a matching brown tray that ensures they don’t touch one another. The frosting—a marshmallow whip, light as foam, and precisely applied to the crowns in clockwise strokes—has been individually torched to a flawless golden brown. The taste—deep, rich cocoa, a layer of buttery graham cracker at the base—is such that whoever makes those Magnolia cupcakes should commit ritual suicide in shame. Even her mother would be hard-pressed to do better. How nice, but, uh, why? “Jennifer likes me to lighten the blow of my lovely personality,” Alexis explains.
Jennifer is Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, Stewart’s co-host on “Whatever With Alexis and Jennifer,” a two-hour weekday drive-time show that, for the last three years, has been quietly burning up Sirius satellite radio. We’re in the studio for the half-hour run-up to airtime, and Alexis, dressed in a lunch-on-the-yacht ensemble of tight white jeans and a brown halter that accentuates her arachnid-lithe limbs, is furiously scrubbing her keyboard, monitor, and microphone with a Lysol Wipe. “It’s their drool and snot that I don’t like,” she says of the previous occupants of the D.J. booth. “If you listen to the show, you’ll know that my area has to be calm before I can calm down,” she says, goes back to her rigorous wiping, then turns and clarifies: “Not my vaginal area. I just meant my work area.”
Martha Stewart’s daughter is just getting warmed up. While Jennifer is the hardworking, chatty, good girl on the show, always keeping the conversation going, never forgetting to throw out the show I.D. or phone number, it is Alexis—once the sphinxlike character sitting in the front row of her mother’s trial—who has for the last two and a half years been relating every detail of her life on-air. The breast lift, the Botox, the in vitro shots to try to get pregnant, the “betweeny” wax she favors over the Brazilian, the recurrent sexual fantasies involving Scott Bakula, the past dabbling in lesbianism, the abortion she had years ago, the .357 Magnum she bought to euthanize her aged bulldogs in the event that World War III broke out and she had to flee the island pet-less. And she doesn’t just talk about herself. She has opinions about pretty much everyone and everything, almost uniformly negative, with the exception of the hodgepodge of things she loves, like Garrison Keillor, Andy Rooney, the Shake Shack, and banjo music. Alexis on Project Runway’s Nina Garcia: “Pretending to know everything about beauty, meanwhile looking like this weird chinless monster.” On Michael Phelps: “He’s ugly … His feet are size 14. It’s just gross.” On Sarah Palin: She wants to “kill everything but the 3-month-old fetus.” Rarely are there guests; after Alexis’s spat with He’s Just Not That Into You author Greg Behrendt—she hassled him for avoiding eye contact—the Sirius talent department stopped sending people. (“I didn’t know he had a lazy eye!” Alexis swears.)
Martha listens to “Whatever” when she’s in the car if the topic of conversation is something that she feels comfortable listening to with her male driver. A discussion of the phenomenon of “middlesmertz”—“when a woman ovulates and her panties get all goopy,” Alexis explains—precipitated a hasty channel change. That the show airs on Martha’s Sirius channel has been a cause of some concern within the parent company since its debut. Explains Jennifer, “Some people were initially like, ‘Oh, crap!’ because Alexis talked about her sex life”—shtupping a limo driver in Las Vegas, for instance—“and I would talk about pooping.”
But the fact that the Whatever girls and their opinions were safely tucked away on satellite radio, a medium whose audience is composed largely of truck drivers, provided some protection. If a comment about Alexis not being able to tell Whoopi and Oprah apart falls in the forest … That’s all about to change with Whatever, Martha!, the pair’s new show on cable’s Fine Living Network, home of cooking and decorating shows like Iron Chef and Rooms That Rock. In their new endeavor, Alexis and Jennifer watch old episodes of Martha Stewart Living—in which Martha demonstrates, say, the proper way to bake a cheesecake or do leg lunges or craft something elaborate out of “a few simple materials”—and make merciless fun of her.
Fine Living, the cable channel that also broadcasts The Martha Stewart Show every evening, happens to be owned by Scripps Networks, a folksy company out of Tennessee that takes a blue-nosed pride in not accepting liquor ads. Scripps offered media training for the girls; Alexis refused. “My media training was when I was 22 and some C-U-N-T named Candace Bushnell came to interview me about my mother,” Alexis says. “I learned very quickly.” Hilary Schupf, a Sirius publicist who’s been sitting in, grins helplessly. Bushnell, who later says she’s “completely mystified” by Alexis’s comment, happens to have her own Sirius show. “I don’t think we need to talk about other hosts,” Schupf suggests gently.