“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.
The show’s addictive appeal lies in its frisson of danger—the feeling that Alexis, especially, might at any minute admit on-air to having just beheaded a pedicurist. The pair happen to be naturals in a format that has proved a Waterloo for those who underestimated talk radio’s difficulty, from Whoopi Goldberg to David Lee Roth. “Maybe it was because we were raised where we didn’t really have to kiss anybody’s ass,” theorizes Alexis on the source of the show’s brutal honesty. Both women share this trait. Jennifer is the daughter of Charles Koppelman, the recording-industry legend who for the last four years has served as chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She grew up vacationing with Barbra Streisand; Run-DMC played her sweet sixteen. But Jennifer would never take anything quite as far as Alexis does.
During a commercial break, Stewart begins complaining about a newish NPR program. “ ‘The Takeaway’ is going to kill me,” she seethes of the jokey current-events show that airs weekday mornings on WNYC. I mention that “The Takeaway” is co-hosted by John Hockenberry, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. Stewart’s eyes light up. “Oh, who knew?” she says with relish. “Now I hate him more. He gets that convenient parking spot.” Jennifer covers her face with her hands: “You know she’s joking, right?” Alexis is not quite finished. “And all the bathrooms in my new apartment have to be big so he can do a 360 in there. Like I’m ever inviting him in.”
“Ten seconds,” the producer announces, and the girls are back on the air launching into a recurring trivia feature called “The Sex Game,” where callers compete to win Alexis’s used first- generation iPhone. “True or false,” Stewart asks a caller named Christine. “A cock ring is usually put on a soft penis.”
The sales pitch for Whatever, Martha!—the show’s internal tension, a TV executive might call it—is that Martha Stewart is going to be really steamed when she gets a load of what her zany daughter and her zany daughter’s friend have been saying about her on television, that not only has a flaming bag of dog poop been dropped off on Martha’s porch, the bag’s a Valextra tote, and Alexis’s AmEx bill is poking out of it. The invite for the premiere party reads, “Even though the show takes aim at Martha Stewart, she’s coming to the party. Apparently, she’s not too mad. We’ll see.” It’s a conceit rendered absurd by the show’s credits, where Martha Stewart is listed as both executive producer and creator.
The show happens to be another in a series of happy by-products of the insomnia that afflicts the Stewart women, both of whom frequently go to bed with the TV on, sleep-timer function set. Martha was watching late one night when inspiration struck. “I got the idea from Mystery Science Theater, the way the little pop-up figures were watching the horror movies and making comments. I’ve always loved those guys. I was thinking about my show and the old segments, I thought, How can we get a different audience to watch and still learn? And I thought that’s how we could do it, if Alexis and Jennifer would agree to be the pop-up figures.”
Isn’t the humor in Mystery Science Theater 3000 a little juvenile?
“Well, it is juvenile, but the idea is brilliant. It’s like South Park. That kind of humor is infectious. I can’t do it all the time. I have to draw the line at Talladega … whatever that stupid Talladega movie was. I went to the movies last night, and the previews were so horrible that the ‘Whatever’ girls seem terribly refreshing.”
What previews, just out of curiosity?
“Oh my God, there are these horrible movies! The one about the fatties.”
Ah, did you by chance go see Tropic Thunder, Martha? Because I think what you may be referring to, The Fatties: Fart II, was a fake preview with Jack Black.
“Oh, all those previews are fake? Okay, I was having a dispute about something and not paying attention. I was wondering, ‘Why are these going on forever?’ By the time the previews were over, I’d done seven e-mails.”
“Are you kidding me?” Alexis squeals upon hearing about her mother’s evening at the movies. On a recent afternoon, she’s in a deserted corner booth at Morandi in the West Village, wearing a sleeveless Missoni dress, dangerously low cut (“I have tape on my boobs so that it doesn’t fall open,” she assures me). She sets on the table a Roland digital recorder, which looks high tech enough that you’d believe Moby might have recorded his last album on it. (Martha, at least as far back as 1990, came packing recorders to interviews.) “Why was she even going to see Tropic Thunder?” she screeches with delight. Alexis, more than anyone, enjoys a good Martha story, and this one she thinks belongs in the “Martha can sleep everywhere but in her bed” file. “She was probably already asleep,” Alexis says. “She’s famous for it. In college, she went on a date to the Ziegfeld, and she woke up and the theater was dark and her date was gone.”
Alexis calls her mother “Martha,” a habit she says was born in adulthood from so frequently being in crowds with her and feeling mortified at having to shout “Mom!” into the throng. Sometimes she’ll refer to her as “Mothra,” which seems to crystallize her conception of her mother as a thing that is willful, persistent, and more than a little scary, but, like Godzilla’s winged nemesis, too humorous to be treated with any real scorn. On the first episode of Whatever, Martha!, while the women pipe icing onto cupcakes along with an old segment of Martha instructing a group of toqued youngsters, Alexis recalls being forced to endure something in her youth called “cooking school,” where she and her friends “had to wear those stupid chef’s hats” for after-school lessons with her mother.
JENNIFER: Does she like little children?
ALEXIS: She didn’t like me. But then again not many people do like me.
And then later …
ALEXIS: People like to say that Martha didn’t pay attention to me, and that’s just not true. [Beat.] Maybe not the right kind of attention.
JENNIFER: Well, that’s your flair for dramatics …
ALEXIS: Oh, you think so, hmmm? That’s not what my therapists say. And that is plural. Therapists. Plural.
Alexis and Jennifer met three and a half years ago in the halls of the Starrett-Lehigh Building, where Martha had offices since 2000. Jennifer was working as her father’s secretary; Alexis, who spent practically no time at Starrett previously, was there to make her big network-television debut as Martha’s chilly deputy in her mother’s post-jailhouse comeback, Martha Stewart: The Apprentice. Jennifer started saying hello to Alexis when they passed in the halls. “I would grunt,” says Alexis of her response. “But there was a smile behind the grunts,” Jennifer qualifies.
Eventually the grunts became hellos, the hellos conversations, and soon Alexis mentioned that she might want a partner on the radio show she planned to host on Martha’s Sirius channel. Jennifer perked right up. She had once wanted to be a singer, but her dad declined to put his considerable industry muscle behind her. Then she tried acting but changed her mind when a Broadway casting agent told her she was too plump to be considered for leading-lady roles. Her big break finally came when she was summoned to Martha’s huge, sun-drenched corner office. “So you’re going to do a show with Alexis,” Martha told her. And that was it.
“Listen,” Jennifer says. “Alexis will never admit to loving me, but I know that she does.” Considering the pair’s on-air chemistry, the possibility hadn’t even occurred to me that she might not. Later, Walter Sabo—the talk-radio consultant considered a guru for coaching Dr. Ruth and Sally Jessy Raphael and who now acts as a consultant to many neophyte hosts on Sirius’s roster—asks me a little provocatively how the Whatever girls were doing. “What’s interesting about teams on the air,” he says, “is that they may succeed for many, many years, and usually at some point they stop speaking to each other off the air.” Jennifer and Alexis speak off the air, but not nearly as much as they did in the early days, owing to a showdown of sorts. Jennifer, it seems, was calling Alexis too much. “She and her friends call each other every five minutes,” says Alexis. “I can’t handle that. I freaked out on her and said, ‘You gotta stop.’ ” Jennifer put a bright spin on the curtailed communications. “She doesn’t really need to be taken care of,” she says of Alexis. “It was oddly liberating to know that.”
Not that this has solved all their problems with each other. Two years ago, Alexis went on an on-air tirade about how much she dislikes Jennifer’s friends. “I hate all her friends, and if I don’t do exactly what they’re expecting me to, they’ll freak out because I’m a bitch,” she tells me. “I don’t tap-dance.” But Jennifer gets along with Alexis’s friends. “Because I have nice friends,” Alexis stage-whispers. “I have nice friends, too,” Jennifer says, a little wounded. “Your Jappy Long I sland friends?” asks Alexis.
Sniping aside, Jennifer swears Alexis’s heart is in the right place, and she must be judged not on words but deeds. “The day my mother died, I called her and said, ‘I don’t know how to get a house ready for a shiva,’ ” Jennifer says. “She got here within 60 minutes, and went through my mom’s house and helped me set up. It was horrible, and she was there.”
“So you’re going to spin this as a bad-mother thing?” Alexis demands to know at lunch. Her eyes are wide and her mouth agape in a way that expresses a mixture of boredom, contempt, and acute mortification. This is her trademark expression, frequently accompanied by a dramatic shrug and two upturned are-you-kidding-me palms. “My mother is difficult. How could she not be?” The bad-mother question, I point out, comes from Alexis talking about her mother hating her. “I was being funny!” she says. “I poke fun of everybody and everything. And who’s easier to make fun of than your mother?”
It’s a complicated mother-daughter relationship, says a person who has spent time with the pair. “Martha adores her, and Alexis has an enormous amount of love for her mother, but at the same time they push each other’s buttons. When they spend time together, it’s rarely good. Still, if anyone says a bad word about Martha, even if she’s in a period of not loving her, Alexis is like a mama cat with her baby. She’s deeply protective of her mother’s legacy.”
Fair or not, the armchair psychiatrist’s take on Alexis is that she grew up starved for attention. “Martha was completely immersed in other things, as everybody knows,” says Andy Stewart, Alexis’s father, who hasn’t spoken to his daughter in over twenty years. “That stuff took up much more time and energy than most people have. There was not that much time left to devote to a child. I was occupied, too, commuting to work in New York, restoring the house, helping Martha with her books. We just didn’t spend the kind of time we should have, or normal people do, with their children.”
There’s documentary evidence that Martha did devote time to her daughter; Alexis, on her blog, posted letters she’d received while at camp in New Hampshire when she was 6 years old. “I do wish that you children in your bunk would be good girls,” Martha wrote in block letters. “Please be nice until the end of camp. Daddy and mommy love you very much!” Underneath is written SPELLING LESSON and a list of sixteen words—“animal,” “banquet,” “shoes”—whose spelling had been mauled in one of Alexis’s previous letters.
“I think not,” Alexis says, when asked if she was touched much as a kid. Does her mother try to hug her now? “Yes, she does,” Alexis says. “But I can’t deal with it.” She laughs. “I was about to say ‘I don’t like strangers hugging me.’ Strangers! No, that was not Freudian. Hugging is not my shtick.” Alexis says she was a well-behaved child. “Martha’s scary,” she says. “You just don’t want to fuck with her … I did almost nothing wrong. The fear of getting yelled at was enough for me. And I still hate getting yelled at by anybody.”
Her parents sent her to a shrink in her adolescence who told her she was chronically depressed, and she still takes antidepressants. “That’s not public information! Where did you get that?” she demands, after I’ve asked if she’s still on 25 milligrams of Zoloft twice a day. When I produce the page from the Frequently Asked Questions page of whateverradio.com (the specific question being, “What medications is Alexis currently taking?”), she calms down. “Now it’s one [50 milligram] pill once a day,” she says for the record. “And that’s almost nothing.” She says she used to take a much higher dose of Effexor, a regimen that made her feel increasingly complacent and numb. “I kept trying to suggest to my doctor I get off of it and then something horrible would happen, like my mother would go to prison, and it would be like, ‘Not now.’ ”
“Guess who’s never been to a therapist, or only been maybe twice,” says Martha. “I’ve never been to a therapist. Alexis likes talking about her innermost feelings. I don’t.”
Considering that Martha Stewart has built a business on the idea of a woman’s unapologetic quest for domestic excellence with little acknowledgment of effort—let alone mental illness—I wondered if Martha was at all concerned about Whatever, Martha! ’s potential effect on the brand. “Well, Alexis is striving for perfection,” she says, before falling into a weirdly telling verbal vortex. “If you have a therapist, you’re striving for perfection. Why would you go to a therapist if you weren’t striving for perfection? Guess who’s never been to a therapist, or only been maybe twice? Just guess. I’ve never been to a therapist. I think I’ve had about four visits to a therapist, but that was with a marriage counselor. I don’t have time! I’m busy.” So these problems of Alexis’s weren’t genetic? “I don’t think there’s a history of depression,” Martha says. “Not on my side of the family. You’d have to talk to her ex-father for that side of the family. No, it’s not about that. She likes talking about her innermost feelings. I don’t.” Indeed, on her show, Alexis has been candid about a lifelong history of crippling depressions and anxiety that for periods made it difficult for her to leave the house. She’s also said on-air that her mother disapproves of her going to therapy. “My parents sent me but didn’t go themselves,” she said, “which is the exact opposite of what they should have done.”
In 1987, her father left her mother and six years later married Martha’s onetime assistant. Alexis, a full-grown 22 when her dad left, is open about despising him. “He was a dick in many ways,” she says. “Monetarily. Emotionally. And he was creepy to me. He’s just creepy.” Andy Stewart now lives in a restored farmhouse on 100 acres in Vermont and owns a small publishing house that produces nature guides. He still wonders why his oldest daughter hates him so. “I’ve tried to figure it out,” he says, voice quavering. “I left her mother. It was very hard. It took many months to finally succeed in leaving. We’d been married a long time. I guess Lexi felt I left her. I certainly didn’t feel that way. I love her a lot. I don’t have any trouble getting along with my kids except for her. I know her mother was hurt when I left her. I was hurt too. I think she was sympathetic toward her mother, which I can understand.” He has long since stopped sending cards and gifts—they used to come back to him unopened. He has never listened to her radio show and thinks he’ll probably avoid trying to see Whatever, Martha! “I’m hesitant to watch,” he says. “In the very few things I have seen, I’ve seen that anger in Lexi that I remember also seeing in Martha. It’s upsetting to me. I guess I avoid it.”
For many years, Alexis avoided the perception that she’s a glue gun–wielding acolyte of her mother. Her occasional forays into the hospitality business met with mixed results. She bought and renovated a motel in Bridgehampton, but couldn’t stand dealing with the guests. She had similar problems with the gym she opened in East Hampton in 1996, not far from her mother’s home on Lily Pond Lane. “If you’re nasty to me in my place of business, I’m going to be really nasty back,” she says. “I’d be like, ‘Get the F out … And then they’d say, ‘You can’t do that!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I can. I can’t kick you out because you’re short, or gay, but I can kick you out because you’re an asshole.’ ” (This apparently happened with only a couple of clients, including one Stewart describes as a “nasty, nasty man who was always dropping his weights on purpose.”)
Before the Sirius project, Alexis had never appeared on her mother’s show, which she says has gone a long way toward convincing people that she hates Martha. The daughter-stand-in role was often performed by the spectacularly résuméd Sophie Herbert, Martha’s niece, a yoga teacher who spent four months in India teaching English, studied yoga therapy for disabled children, and donated proceeds from a side gig as a singer-songwriter to the Tibetan Children’s Village. Sophie, Alexis says, goes on far more overseas trips with Martha than she does.
But it is Alexis, and no relentlessly perky cousin, who will almost certainly inherit the entirety of her mother’s empire, which includes 90 percent of voting rights and 55 percent of the common stock of MSLO. The company is not worth what it once was—shares are hovering in the $7 to $9 per share range, down from a high of over $37. Still, if tomorrow the 67-year-old Martha perished in a bizarre accident involving pruning shears and a strong gust of wind, Alexis would be worth about a quarter-billion dollars, and she’d have to decide whether to step up and help steer the company, or sell the shares. Surprisingly, Alexis doesn’t seem inclined toward the second option. “Sell it to who?” she says. “When my mother’s dead?” She ponders what kind of company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia would be if Martha Stewart wasn’t, well, living. “I’m assuming my mother’s not going to die until she’s good and ready.”
The idea of succession is, by most accounts, not a conversation easily broached with Martha either. But clearly efforts are in the works to broaden the brand beyond a single name. In February, MSLO ponied up $50 million for Emeril Lagasse’s media and merchandise franchise, and other personalities may be added to the roster soon. And then there’s Alexis—both the least likely and most probable candidate for the Martha mantle. “We’re looking for other avenues to grow our business that don’t necessarily have to be Martha-centric,” says Charles Koppelman. “If we follow the Whatever girls down the road the next couple years, I think they could be a significant brand unto themselves. Could they have a magazine? Could they have a television component? Could they be selling products? Why not?”
It was during her mother’s trial and eventual incarceration that Alexis finally began to show real interest in the company. She was in the front row for every day of the six-week trial; she crumpled and wept when the jury read its guilty verdicts, and then she flew her mother to West Virginia and dropped her off in the pre-dawn hours at Alderson Federal Prison. “It was great for her actually,” Alexis says about the place Martha now refers to as “Yale.” “She lost weight. She couldn’t work. Enforced rest. Enforced reading time. Enforced exercise. It was like a spa with really bad food.” Alexis visited her nearly every weekend. “Some weekends I would try to not go and she’d freak out. ‘You’re not coming next weekend,’ she’d say, and I’d be like, ‘Fuck.’ ”
Alexis agreed to take on the Caroline Kepcher role in her mother’s version of The Apprentice. She also planted the seed that Martha should pursue a deal at Sirius. “I said if they would hire Howard Stern, then they would hire a felon,” she says. Soon, Alexis’s austere Tribeca loft started showing up in the pages of Martha Stewart Living, a clear appeal to younger readers who felt more comfortable with a Barcelona chair than the fussier touches her mother favors. And these days her blog is packed with recipes and photographed dishes that look just as impressive as her mom’s.
Not that Alexis’s new interest in her mother’s territory comes without complications. Here’s Martha, asked if she agrees with Alexis’s contention that she’s the better cook. “Not really,” she says, the slightest bit of edge creeping into her voice. “Look how many wonderful cookbooks I’ve written, okay. Right now cooking isn’t my main interest as it is her main interest right now. I garden a lot more than she gardens.” Are you competitive about your cooking? “Oh, no!” says Martha.
It would, in a way, make great sense for Alexis to follow in her mother’s footsteps—if she could tone down the act a bit. There would seem to be an audience of young domestic goddesses out there who feel the same way as Alexis about Rachael Ray and some of the other age-appropriate offerings. “She drives me crazy,” Alexis says of Ray. “She’s annoying, and she eats shit out of a can.”
At the premiere party for Whatever, Martha!, Martha Stewart is having trouble being heard. “Music,” she says, bonking her wireless mike on the forearm of Chad Youngblood, the 38-year-old general manager of Fine Living who has flown in from Tennessee to stand next to the doyenne of domesticity and look helpless. A full two minutes pass, but the music stays on. “I’m going to kill somebody,” she says quietly through a tight smile. Finally, the music fades, but now the microphones don’t work. “There’s just another check we won’t pay!” she shouts cheerfully, and everybody laughs, except, presumably, the AV guy.
Martha, in her comments, explains why she’s subjecting herself to such treatment. If she must be, as she says, “the object of the sort of deriding … remarks of Alexis and Jennifer,” then at least it’s in the service of bringing a new audience to her work, which she describes as “teaching the world how to do things.” Martha’s an acknowledged marketing genius; she’s not going to allow her skills as a mother to be called into question on television without a major upside. “I know that,” Martha had said coolly, when I’d meekly told her I thought the Whatever brand spoke to my generation more than hers did. “I’m smart. And I think I understand what’s going on in the world.”
There’s profit in self-deprecation, or, in the case of the Stewart women, plain deprecation. Onstage, Martha mentions that her daughter and Koppelman have been trying to craft along with the old segments, “sometimes successfully and sometimes not.” She looks down into the front row. “Why are you looking at me?” Jennifer asks. “You have to practice a little bit,” Martha says. “Jennifer’s a homemaker but not a crafter.” Then the Alexis bragging begins. “By the way,” Martha says, “it was Alexis’s idea—now see, entrepreneur—that the real teaching segment à la Martha, be put on the Internet daily to go with the segments on the Whatever, Martha! show, so if you really want to make a ribbon rose, you can watch the real thing without the over- riding comments.”
Tomorrow, Alexis will be on the radio talking about how drunk she’d gotten at the party, how the whole group—she, Jennifer, Martha, and others—ended up at Nobu where she’d mistakenly complimented Michael Caine on being her all-time favorite James Bond. But right now mother and daughter are pushing their high-heeled feet together to be photographed by Alexis’s best friend, Kevin Sharkey, the editorial director of decorating for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “She is the hottest, sexiest up-and-coming Andy Rooney there is,” Sharkey had told me earlier, an image so bizarre I share it with Alexis and Martha. “I think Andy Rooney is God’s gift,” says Alexis. Martha perks up. “He was on my show,” she says. “I know,” Alexis says. “We did his segment.” “Oh, you did,” Martha says, offering an exaggerated eye roll. “I don’t want to hear about it.” But Martha stays put as her daughter tells the story of Rooney’s 1993 visit to the Martha show, and how he took a patronizing tone with her mother. “After we did the segment, my mother comes in and says, ‘Do you hate Andy Rooney like I hate Andy Rooney?’ ” Alexis says. Martha smiles and makes no effort to correct any part of the story about her distaste for the nonagenarian 60 Minutes star. I have to wonder if perhaps it’s true what some say around the office, that what comes out of Alexis’s mouth dwells unspoken in Martha’s head, that Alexis is Martha’s id, free at last.