Gossip maven A.J. Benza
never was satisfied with merely talking trash about celebrities he's always wanted to be one! Once a controversial columnist for New York's Daily News
, Benza went on to host Mysteries & Scandals
on E! and pen a tell-all memoir bearing his signature catchphrase, Fame: Ain't It a Bitch
(Talk/Miramax). And whether they take him for a rough-edged raconteur or an egomaniacal blowhard, people are paying attention to Benza which is just the way he likes it. Tonight, the rascally wag kicks off his own late-night talk show, A.J. After Hours
(airing Thursdays at 10 pm/ET on E!). Here, TV Guide Online takes a sidebar with good-sport Benza to ask him about some relevant and maybe not-so-relevant issues of the day.
TVGO: Your colleague, Liz Smith, recently came out. Have you any startling confessions to make?
Benza: I am firmly in the closet no, I'm only kidding. I think I made all my confessions in my book. I was never beaten as a child; I never had an uncle who sexually abused me; and my mother and father kissed and pinched each other's asses every day of my life, so I was always in a loving household. I used to steal a lot as a kid, but I'm all better now. I'm reformed in every sense of the word.
TVGO: Do you kiss and tell in the book?
Benza: I do. I don't kiss and tell on the people who I know would be awfully upset about it. But there are a few in there that I thought added flavor to the book.
TVGO: If we held a gossip columnist death match, who would win, you or Michael Musto?
Benza: Well, if the pen is mightier than the sword, Musto would win. But it's not, so I would win. Except I would never fight Michael. I love him too much. We're from the same town in Brooklyn Bensonhurst.
TVGO: Who should replace Shannen Doherty on Charmed? And will Doherty ever work again?
Benza: I like that chick on 7th Heaven, Jessica Biel. I'm obsessed with her and Alyssa Milano, so I think Biel would be a great addition to that show. But yeah, Shannen will work again. Hollywood's full of comebacks, so if she keeps her cool, she's got talent enough to stick around for awhile.
TVGO: Would you ever appear on a celebrity edition of Survivor?
Benza: Two weeks in the Outback would be a vacation compared to this book and TV-show tour that I'm on right now. I'd gladly cook a few cockroaches and go take a couple of sexy girls behind a bush.
TVGO: What do you think of the instant stardom these Survivors are enjoying?
Benza: It's kind of annoying when that doctor guy Sean from the first Survivor gets a better seat than I do at the VH1 Fashion Awards. Screw that [expletive]. Why? A couple of weeks without a steak makes you a celebrity? I don't get it. And he had a prettier date than I did. That really pissed me off.
TVGO: What's the worst TV show you've seen this season?
Benza: I didn't like The Fighting Fitzgeralds. This is going to sound funny coming from an [Italian] guy who lives and dies for The Sopranos, but I thought it was too stereotypical. The Irish aren't always fighting; it just seemed too canned for me. The worst show on the air is probably Nikki. But I can't keep my eyes off of Nikki Cox. I don't care what she does as long as she keeps making bad TV, I'll tune in. She's gorgeous. She's marrying Bobcat Goldthwait, so I like to tune in just to get more infuriated and jealous as I watch.