Patricia Sheridan's Best of Breakfast With ... 2013


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Breakfast With brought together an especially varied cross-section of cultural and pop cultural leaders this year. Authors, actors, athletes, politicians, producers and vegans were just some of the people profiled in 2013. Here are some interesting breakfast sound bites:

Feb. 18: Ben Jealous

Your parents were a huge influence on you, but your father was disowned for marrying your mother. Did you ever get to know his family?

Yes. My grandmother and my two uncles, my father's brothers, always accepted the marriage. It was my father's grandfather and my father's uncle who disowned and disinherited us. My father's father was deceased, so his grandfather was very much the patriarch. My father lost a large inheritance, and we were denied contact with the extended family.

March 4: Mike Rowe

You've said that the people who do these jobs seem happier than many of the lawyers and bankers you have met.

I hate to generalize, but it's true. I don't want to put anyone in a box, but after a hundred of these things you can kind of step back and look at it as a kind of control group. The answer to that is a 400-page book I can't seem to finish. But your point is the big question: What do people with dirty jobs know that we don't? In a really general way, the answer is balance. The answer is completion.

March 11: Christopher Kennedy Lawford

So do you create new rewards for yourself to subvert the cravings?

Rewards and the potential of rewards are not enough to subvert cravings. Mindfulness and sort of hanging on -- the knowledge that this too shall pass -- is a big deal in terms of early recovery. The cravings do go away. That is a biological thing. They do go away. That doesn't mean you won't have triggers. What I got early on was somebody looked at me about 30 days sober and said, "You are going to have a life beyond your wildest dreams." No one had ever said that to me before.

Recovery is way more interesting than using. Addicts need to know that. You may think you are living a big, fancy, sexy life, but let me just tell you something: You are lying on a couch and you can barely get up to take the dog out. That is the truth. They need to hear the truth. People dance around this illness all the time. I don't dance around it. If you don't want this more than you want anything in your life, lose my number. I don't have time for you.

April 1: Cher

So did fame turn out to be everything you thought it would be?

Actually, I didn't think I wanted to be famous. I mean, at some point obviously I did. I looked up on the screen, and I wanted to be up on the screen and be an actor. I just knew I wanted to sing and dance and be silly up on the big screen and have everybody sitting in the audience clapping. So has fame been what I thought? I had no [expletive] idea what it was going to be, you know? There are a lot of times it's wonderful, and I get to do things I would never be able to do and meet people. Like last night, I was working on my album and I was in heaven because it was so much fun, and I still love that. I still love acting. I love being on stage. I love it. And it has some really bad down sides, too.

May 20: Portia de Rossi

You've been a vegan since 2008 -- congratulations! I tried twice and just gained weight.

[Laughing] Ah, that is actually the first time I have heard that. Most people lose a lot of weight when they become vegan. Here's the thing: You do have to do it right. You have to know what to eat, but it's actually a lot easier than you think, especially now. You should try it again because there is so many great products out there that can help you transition into a plant-based diet. I really love animals, and I don't want to be a part of harming them in any way.

June 3: Sean Hannity

So basically ...

So I am polarizing, yes. Anybody who has a point of view is going to take hits. I don't care what people who don't like me think at all. Period. End of sentence. Doesn't matter to me. I don't read it. Do I know they exist? Yes. But it is absolutely meaningless to me.

Have you always been like that?

In the beginning I remember not liking it and it concerning me and bothering me. When I left Huntsville, Ala., the local paper said, "Good-bye to the talk show host from hell." When I left Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote that 1996 was a good year for two reasons -- the Olympics came and Hannity left. So if I don't have a thicker skin by now, then I am never going to get one. The word confidence from the Latin -- speaking of Catholicism -- means "with deity," and if you have confidence, not arrogance, that what you believe is right, then none of that should matter.

June 24: LeVar Burton

Have you found that being smart, talented and successful has insulated you from prejudice?

No, not at all. Not always. My son is 32 and when he was coming up, I instructed him, similar to the way my mother instructed me, about life. I shared with him my own practice when I am pulled over by law enforcement. Notice my word was chosen selectively -- "when" -- whenever I am pulled over by law enforcement, not if. As a black man in this culture, it is a given that you will attract more attention from law enforcement than your white friends.

So whenever I am pulled over by law enforcement, I roll down my driver's side window and my passenger side window in the event that two officers are approaching my car. I take my hat and my sunglasses off and I place them on the seat next to me. I stick my hands outside the window and place them on the door of the car in full view because I want those officers who are approaching my car to approach in as relaxed a manner as possible.

July 15: Sam Rockwell

I've read that parenting and marriage were things you were not interested in. Is that still true?

Yeah, you know it's not really my cup of tea. It's just not my thing. Some people think I'm crazy, but I don't really. I don't need to do that. I've got a dog, a German shepherd.

July 22: Heath Miller

So are you working on a touchdown dance?

[Laughing] No, no. No one wants to see me dance. We'll leave it at that. I'm excited. I'm excited. I guess I show it a little differently.

Aug. 26: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.

If food is medicine, how do you feel about genetically modified crops?

I don't think I want to get into that right now because that would really take a great deal of additional educational background. There are some serious unknowns about genetically modified foods, and sadly so much of it right now is being created purely for profit. It is so disgraceful what the government has done. They permit the Department of Agriculture to design every five years a food pyramid or plate for the public. On that plate are the very foods if consumed will guarantee that millions of Americans will perish. The USDA is nothing more than the handmaiden of the food industry. Having the USDA design a food pyramid for the public is like having Al Capone do your taxes.

Sept. 9: Tim Gunn

I read your parents were pretty homophobic. Did that get resolved?

No, [laughing] never. My father died close to 20 years ago and I always say, "Oh my God, had he been alive for this whole "Project Runway," and there is a Tim Gunn Barbie out, my super hero character with Marvel and the reprise of Models Inc. That would have killed him!" It's so funny, my mother for years would say to me, "I found the loveliest girl for you." "Mother, thank you. I'm not interested." About three to four years before she died, she stopped saying that. There are some things that may have made me feel better to get off my chest and discuss with my mother, but I thought it's not going to make her feel any better. There are times when you just need to keep your mouth shut. Sometimes more is said by saying nothing.

Sept. 16: Rebecca Eaton

Do you ever feel as if you have cultural overload and you must go watch "Keeping up with the Kardashians?"

[Big laugh] NO! I have never watched the Kardashians, I am very proud to say. I actually don't watch a lot of television. I load a DVR. I watch only what I want. I don't turn on the TV to see what is there. The stuff that I watch, there is a lot of British drama. I want to keep up on it, so I watch a lot of that. For American television, "Homeland" and "Mad Men," and I have to say I also have just a real addiction to PBS documentaries, particularly "American Experience." I love American history documentaries.

Oct. 21: Colin Powell

When you were growing up, did your parents discuss racism with you or warn you about it?

Yeah, I knew what was the situation in our country. But I lived on a block in the South Bronx that had no racism in it -- We were all poor. Let's say lower-income. My mother would hate it if I said poor. We all got along fine. We were from every imaginable background -- West Indians, Puerto Ricans, blacks from the South. There were Eastern European immigrants on my block. There was a large Jewish population. We saw ourselves as a diverse group.

I knew when I left the South Bronx and went to the South -- Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Bragg, N.C. -- I knew what I had to do and how I had to behave. You have to realize in those days it was the Army that was the most progressive social institution in the country. Our Army bases were an oasis of integration in communities that were totally racist and lived on the rule of Jim Crow. All that changed. I lived to see all that change.

Sept. 23: Terry McMillan

Speaking of first books, what was the first book you could not put down it was so good?

I think ... whoa, well "Bartlett's Quotations." I found it under the floorboards of a house we lived in when I was, I don't know, 12. I didn't know what this book was doing there, and I just started reading from A all the way through. I couldn't believe that there was a book that had so much knowledge and information about different topics. I think that book changed me. It opened up my eyes without my realizing it at the time. I was just in awe that anybody could think so much about love, about hatred, about children, about so many different topics, topics at that time that I didn't even know existed. So even though it wasn't a novel, that is probably the first one.

Oct. 14: Ina Garten

Do you think of yourself as a risk taker?

Yes, but calculated risk. I actually think I push myself at various stages in my professional life to just jump off a cliff and figure it out because I have a very, very low threshold of boredom. When I'm bored I have to change it. I have to do something else. I can't stand doing the same thing over and over again. So am I a risk taker? Not by nature, but if I'm doing something that I think isn't exciting. ... Do I like thinking about it in the middle of the night? Or does it worry me? I think that I work a little bit scared, which pushes me. So it's not about the risk. It's about avoiding boredom kind of thing.

Nov. 11: Alex Trebek

So you still love those Snickers bars?

I've been rethinking that. I have mentioned on a number of occasions that my breakfast of champions is a Snickers bar and a Diet Pepsi, but I'm finally coming around to the realization that maybe I should change that. So I'm thinking now of going to a Diet Coke and a Milky Way.

Nov. 25: James Brolin

So do you ever just sit on the couch and stare at the ceiling?

You know what? My wife [Barbra Streisand] and I both said this once and started laughing: We're industrious when we are industrious, but we are very impatient, and the reason is so we can get back in the hammock as soon as possible. Get it done and get back in bed [laughing].

Dec. 9: Mary McDonnell

So last question: You are an actor married to an actor. Can you tell when the other one is not being sincere because you are both good at acting?

Oh, are you kidding? Yes! That is a very funny and wonderful question. I think one of the reasons we got married is we saw right through each other's BS. I hate to use the word, but we did. That is part of the reason why it's lasted.


(Correction, published Jan. 31, 2013): Heath Miller's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.


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