"I've wasted so much time worrying about my looks," says Kathy Griffin. "I'm a comedian! People don't expect me to look like Jennifer Aniston
; they come to hear what I have to say." And she has plenty. After 30 years working her way up the Hollywood food chain before landing her reality show My Life on the D-List in '04, Griffin, 48, "has lived a little life," she says. In an excerpt from her new memoir Official Book club Selection, she dishes about growing up the youngest of five in a Chicago family, her self-esteem problems and the strangest moments of her career in showbiz.
As a kid, I was ugly. I was freckly, I had short, wiry orange hair, and when I walked down the street, boys in my class would bark. When I watched The Brady Bunch, I knew I could never be Marcia. Let's face it, I was Alice even when I was ten. (It doesn't help when your mother says: "You'll always be cute, but you'll never be pretty.")
I was in fourth grade when my binge eating disorder started. Both of my parents worked. I was the classic latchkey kid, so on my way home I would get Pringles and Jiffy cake mix, turn on an afternoon movie and eat it all. I knew it was wrong, because I would never throw away the garbage in the kitchen. I placed it in the neighbors' garbage can. Now I know I was "filling the void." I've always had a low tolerance for loneliness.
In high school, I sought refuge in musical theater. My high school boyfriend was flamboyant, but he did make out with all of us girls in the drama department. We just never went all the way. For some reason. I was so used to hanging out with gay guys that when I had a real boyfriend, I couldn't believe he wanted to have sex. Have you ever met a straight man? Sometimes they want to have sex without A Chorus Line playing. Yuck.
After finishing high school, Griffin moved to L.A. to begin acting.
I became pretty promiscuous, and not with a lot of winners. I remember being at Carl's Jr. in Hollywood one night, meeting some motorcycle gang member, and just climbing on his bike and leaving with him. I'm surprised I was never killed. I never drank, but I'd go to nightclubs, then just go home with a guy. Here was my problem: My type was pretty much any guy who said "hi" to me.
Later Griffin began meeting men in her Hollywood circle.
I spent the night with Quentin Tarantino. That's right. In bed. What we did is, um, a little hard for me to reveal. We cuddled. Yeah. Cuddled. I've never felt so dirty. I also dated Jack Black. Of course. I thought he was a weirdo, and was therefore attracted to him. He lived in this filthy place, littered with video games and bongs. One time, I spent the night. The next day when I stepped out of the shower, I yelled, "Jack, where are the towels?" He said, "Um, I just have one that I use for a bathmat and a towel." Nowadays when I see Jack, it's on the red carpet, and he won't say hi to me. I get it; the guy's a little busy these days. Let's face it, he's an A-lister.
As she struggled to make a name for herself, Griffin felt pressure to change her appearance.
I was consumed with my weight. I had a desperate need to over-exercise. I'd do crazy things, like spend all day drinking only water with five lemons squeezed into it. I desperately wanted to be bulimic. One time I ate a whole pie. I tried sticking my finger down my throat. I couldn't do it. I did try speed for three weeks! It made me jumpy and irritable for a day, then three times as hungry afterward.
I got my first nose job when I was twenty-six. It was a no-brainer, especially after an agent said, "You could be pretty if it weren't for that awful nose." He said it as casually as, "Would you like some water?" The irony is, as you get older your nose grows. So in 2002 I got another nose job. I believe my current nose is my original nose. I've just grown it back.
She landed her breakout role on Suddenly Susan with Brooke Shields
My first impression of Brooke was that I'd never seen anyone so beautiful that her face looks like it has makeup on when it doesn't. She was very sweet. She would often turn to me that first season and say, "Ugh, help me make this funny." I'd think, that's really cool of her. But then we'd have fights about nothing. I actually get a tickle out of remembering them. I got to see a real side of Brooke that wasn't a perfect ice princess model.
Starring on TV, Griffin felt even more pressure to be thin and turned again to surgery.
Fitting sessions on set were awful. The wardrobe people would act as if the size 6 didn't exist. I'd been hearing about this magical process called liposuction. I thought I'd just go to sleep and wake up skinny. Complications from the procedure almost killed me. And my figure didn't even noticeably change. It wasn't until I started running regularly that I discovered how to get weight off and keep it off.
These days Griffin is more comfortable with her body, but nobody's perfect. I agreed to do Paris Hilton
's MTV show. So we go shopping and Paris bought a bikini for me. The show's producer said, "You've got to wear the bikini." It was me next to model-like Paris Hilton
, who, in all of her skinny Paris-ness, wouldn't wear a bikini without a sarong for the shoot. I decided me without a cover-up would be good for a few laughs. That night, it all began happening online. There I was in photos next to Paris Hilton
, and the consensus seemed to be that I have a "bangin' bikini bod."
This whole bikini thing has been hilarious. It doesn't mean I still don't struggle with my weight. Body issues don't just go away. Recently a flight attendant had the bikini picture and wanted me to sign it, and a part of me wanted to go, "Well, just so you know this picture was from five pounds ago. I've worked out so much more since then!" I had to stop myself and say, "Kathy, sign the f—ing picture."
FOR MORE FROM KATHY, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/GRIFFINBOOK