ON THE D.L. WITH STAR JONES
TV host, marriage advisor blows a fuse when questions arise regarding the ‘down low’ phenomenon
BY DANIEL KUSNER
Star Jones writing a book about finding the ideal husband is like Anderson Cooper listing the best ways to score with hot chicks. Something doesn’t sound right.
Star Jones added the last name Reynolds in 2004, exactly a year after she met Al Reynolds, a handsome Wall Street banker, eight years her junior. After a brief romance, Reynolds proposed to “The View” co-hostess during halftime at a Lakers game in February 2004. And that’s when the publicity machine kicked into gear.
Star and Al posed for countless couples portraits. They even launched a website, StarandAl.com. But as the couple prepared for a lavish Manhattan wedding that rivaled the David Gest-Liza Minnelli nuptials, items about Al’s sexuality began appearing in gossip columns — all because Al once shared a house on Fire Island.
Then something weird happened.
Al hired publicist Cindi Berger and released a statement that said, “My fiancée and I have discussed all relevant parts of our personal histories. We are satisfied that we know everything we need to know about each other's pasts and are looking forward to our future together.”
The statement also requested that the media refrain from “destructive rumor, gossip or innuendo.” Amid all the lawyerly jargon — “relevant parts” and “everything we need to know” — the statement had a “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” quality.
In October 2004, “The View” taped two episodes in Dallas. And while Star was in Big D, the New York Daily News reported that Al attended an all-male Halloween party at an Italian restaurant dressed as a stripper in a white Speedo. The costume was apparently a holdover from his 2003 summer spent on Fire Island.
If things didn’t already appear somewhat peculiar, on the eve of the big November wedding, it was reported that Al threw a “Roman baths”-themed bachelor party.
Star grew up in the Miller Homes housing projects of Trenton N.J. And before her gig on “The View,” she attended law school at the University of Houston. Working for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Star was a successful prosecutor. While covering the OJ Simpson trial for “Inside Edition,” she caught Barbara Walters’ eye.
When she’s not fawning over celebrities on “The View,” Star asks tough questions and raises excellent points — especially in the often-heated “Hot Topics” segments that open every episode of the talk show. And during those segments, “The View” hostesses have discussed the “down low” phenomenon — a weak label that’s been attributed to closeted African-American men involved in heterosexual relationships who have sex with men on the side.
The concept of “down low” is especially scary when conclusions are drawn about HIV infection and the alarming rates of African-American women who test positive.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 21-34. And the rate of AIDS diagnoses for African-American women is approximately 25 times the rate for white women.
Last month, Star released “Shine: A Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Journey to Finding Love” ($24.95, Collins). It’s supposed to trace her self-journey — how she lost 150 pounds in two years and how she “got the man.”
By avoiding being the poster girl for a particular weight-loss method, Star refuses to divulge how she slimmed down so miraculously fast. But when it comes to husband hunting, Star offers more than a few pointers.
She begins with the reproduction of a hand-written list: “The Ideal Man for Me!” Star created this list before she met Al, and she even showed it on-air on “The View.” Some prerequisite qualities for her husband-to-be included: Christian, college educated, no criminal background, Democrat and ready for marriage. Sexual history was absent from the list.
In “Shine,” Star also composed a seven-page test for readers to assess their own ideal man. Spirituality, physique, marital history, political affiliation, drug use and crime records are all fair criteria. But her questionnaire doesn't assess having relationships with a bisexual or closeted man. So I thought I’d ask her about it.
In February 2006, Star called my office.
Star Jones Reynolds: This is Star Jones calling. How are you?
I’m doing fine. And you? I’m excellent. And any time I’m coming to Dallas, you know I’m excellent.
That’s right, you’re coming for a book signing. Everyone in Big D knows you’re our city’s biggest supporter on “The View.” I’ve been talking about it constantly, haven’t I? Everyone picks on me. They’re like … [in a pinched nasally voice] ‘We already know how much you love Dallas.’ I’m like, “Don’t hate the player, baby. Hate the game.”
I love Dallas.
You said you and Al have seriously thought about settling down in Dallas in the future. Well, I can’t put that on my husband. I’ve told him that’s where I want to be. He knows I’m very serious about it. Think about it: Dallas has everything I want. It’s got great churches, great fashion and great food. Any place that has Pappasito’s is going to make me very happy. It’s got politics, culture, Saks Fifth Avenue. My girlfriends are there. And you’ve got a good basketball team, which means my life would be complete.
Your Dallas book signing coincides with Black History Month. And in February, issues that affect the African-American community become especially newsworthy. There’s one alarming statistic that particularly addresses African-American women, and that’s the rates of HIV/AIDS infections. Definitely. You should know that I’ve been highly involved in the pandemic for many years. My first cousin died of AIDS — it’s now been 12 years. And I have been dedicated 100 percent, not just working at the foot of the legislation in theory, but with my own hands. I participate in an organization called God’s Love We Deliver, where we actually deliver meals to homebound AIDS and serious-illness patients. So that is definitely a part of my life and has been for many years.
Part of your book addresses your search for the perfect mate. Your book is like a useful guide — especially with all those self-assessment tests you created for readers. Recent statistics show that African-American women are testing positive for HIV at alarmingly higher rates compared to white women. In searching for the perfect mate, do you think women need to begin considering this phenomenon called “the down low?” I have no idea what you’re talking about…
You’ve never heard of “the down low?” Wow, even Oprah has aired entire programs about it. I know, but what does that have to do with me?
This goes back to the same themes your book addresses — women looking for the ideal mate. I was curious if you wanted to address these newsworthy statistics concerning African-American women and HIV infections. From a newsworthy perspective? Because I was like … I was so completely lost as to where you were going.
From a newsworthy perspective, it’s not in “Shine.” It was not one of the issues that we address, obviously. The book was really less about “the man you wanted” and more about the person you wanted to be in order to get the man. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s much more of a self-assessment rather than sort of addressing social issues.
Don’t you think “the down low” is an important topic in 2006 — especially for African-American women who are searching for love? But not in every book. You can’t address every issue. And that was not the issue I was addressing, obviously.
Quite frankly, it was a journey I was taking to sort of better myself and to find out what it is I wanted in life. And I used it as a backdrop for other women.
The book deals more with you identifying what’s going to make you happy and not a whole bunch of social issues. That might be another book, but it’s not this one.
Some folks are especially interested in your relationship with Al. During your whirlwind romance, he issued a carefully worded statement about both of your personal histories. You know what, Daniel? I’m going be really honest with you. I’m trying really hard not to find offense in your questions, but I think you’re being really insulting to me and to my husband. And I think you’ll understand if I won’t allow that.
I’m very protective of myself and my husband and our families and our friends. And I think it’s really not good journalism, and more importantly not fair for you to insinuate or in any way insult my marriage. It’s not fair.
Why is asking about Al’s press release so insulting? You’ll understand, Daniel, that I’m going to end this interview unless you’d like to talk about something else. This is not something I’m interested in discussing with you.
Right now this is probably the most glaringly obvious issue I can think of. Well, it’s not glaringly obvious to me. And quite frankly, Daniel … Thank you, I appreciate your time. [And Star hung up].
Immediately after our brief conversation, two of Reynolds’ publicists called to ask about my line of questioning. They accused me of malicious gossip mongering.
I explained that while Reynolds encourages women to create their own "The Ideal Man for Me” lists, this was an opportunity to discuss a serious issue facing the African-American community.
Reynolds hails from a low-income background and became a New York senior assistant district attorney. She calls herself the “Mouth from the South.” Are questions about the “down-low” phenomenon really too sensitive?
STAR IN DALLAS
While on ‘The View,” Star Jones Reynolds often sings the praises of Big D. On Friday, she stops in North Texas for a book signing at Grapevine Mills Mall
Books-A-Million, Neighborhood 2, Suite 231. Grapevine Mills Mall. Grapevine, Texas. Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. 972 539-0636.
DALLAS VOICE: 02.17.06