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#RIP: WOWlebrity Gabriel Rotello on Late Humorist, Cynthia Heimel Who Once Asked Him, “What’s It Like to Get a Blowjob?”


Cynthia Heimel. Photo, Marcia Resnick

Rotello, circa ’81. Photo, Ira Cohen

Cynthia Heimel was the real-life Carrie Bradshaw. (Sorry, Candace Bushnell, but Cynthia got there first.) Heimel, a humorist, author, party girl and lifelong advocate for a woman’s rights, died in L.A. on February 25 at the age of 70. She had been diagnosed with dementia last year. If you’ve never heard of her, she was an HUGE influence on a generation of female writers who wrote about sex and girls that wanna have fun.

Wowlebrity, former World of Wonder producer, and my old pal, Gabriel Rotello posted a funny remembrance after Cynthia’s passing and I asked him if I could post it here…

“When news spread early this of Cynthia Heimel’s passing I realized I hadn’t spoken to her in more than 30 years. And to be honest I had no idea she had been ill, much less that she had suffered from dementia – which seems particularly cruel for such a brilliant wit.

But a memory of Cynthia popped into my head that won’t go away. So I thought I’d share.

It’s some time in the early 80s and I’m sitting in a downtown Greek diner with Cynthia, the legendary singer Brenda Bergman and Richard Hell – who acted like he thought I was a dork.

Cynthia turns to Richard and says:

‘Richard, I’m working on a column and I have a question a lot of women are curious about. What’s it like to get a blowjob?’

(Remember, Cynthia wrote the ‘Dear Problem Lady‘ column about love and sex, kind of like our very own Carrie from Sex and the City. But real.)

Richard snorts something like ‘get real‘ and ignores the question. So Cynthia turns to me and says:

‘Gabriel, what’s it like to get a blowjob?’

Not wanting to be rude as… well, as rude as Hell, I try to answer.

‘Well Cynthia, I say, that’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t have the equipment. I’ve never been in a female body, so I’m not sure any answer would… you know… connect. I mean, what can I use as a point of comparison?’

So Cynthia says:

‘How about this? Do you think it might be like if you had a really huge clitoris, one that was so big somebody could suck on it?’

And I say:

‘Oh my god, Cynthia, I’m hardly an expert on the clittoratti but I think you’re probably right. Just imagine you had the most gigantic clitoris in the universe, just a wanger of a clit, and imagine somebody going to town on it like there’s no tomorrow, and I think that’s the best way a girl can imagine what it’s like.’

Cynthia turns to Richard and says:

‘See, some guys are willing to engage a girl in a perfectly reasonable question.’

And Richard shoots me a smirk that says:

‘See, this is why I hate your guts, you keyboard-playing little wuss.’

That’s it. Memory fragment over.

Why was I in a booth in a Greek diner with Cynthia Heimel, Brenda Bergman and Richard Hell? No idea.

What year was this? Not really sure.

What happened that led to this exchange? You got me.

What happened in the entire previous year, or the entire following year? You’ll have to read someone else’s memoirs to find out, cause I’m drawing a blank.

But that little snippet of memory kind of epitomized for me the funny frankness and the magic of our own Dorothy Parker. I never thought of blowjobs, or Richard Hell, or Greek diners – or Cynthia Heimel – the same way again.”

–Gabrielle Rotello

Rotello has worked with World of Wonder for years. He was most recently a producer on Gender Revolution – A Journey with Katie Couric, Party Monster, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, The Strange History of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and RuPaul’s Drag Race, among others.

I asked great photographer, Marcia Resnick if I could post her fab portrait of Cynthia. Her book Punks Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982 is an amazing look at that time. She has literally shot EVERYONE from Belushi to Basquiat.

Resnick’s vintage portrait of Richard Hell is also here. Malcolm McLaren, credited Hell as a source of inspiration for the Sex Pistols‘ look and attitude. Hell was also in several important, early punk bands, including Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers, after which he formed Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Their ’77 album Blank Generation influenced many other punk bands.

Brenda Bergman is an actress singer and comedian best known for being in Women Behind Bars and Neon Woman with the late, great Divine. Her band Brenda and the Real Tones counted among their fans Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Debbie Harry. She was also in the films, Monique (1978), Why Do You Exist? (1998) and Geek Maggot Bingo (1983).

Richard Hell. Photo, Marcia Resnick

Rotello & Brenda Bergman, circa 1980

(Photos, @Marcia Resnick)

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