It wasn’t a word I ever thought I would be saying to Eva Longoria – not within the first minute, anyway, should I ever have the privilege of meeting her. In fact, as we sat down to talk, I merely referred to a complicated, pre-interview situation in which I said, as a passing comment: “Too many cooks” (as in “spoil the broth”).
Not understanding my accent, she looked aghast and repeated what she thought I had said. “No, COOKS!” I corrected her. It was an ice-breaker – of sorts. Then, remembering that I had promised to pass on “a big kiss” from a well-known US TV personality, who is a friend of mine and an admirer of hers, I inadvertently said: “And X sends you a big cock.”
It just came out (unlike his, which, for the record, I have never seen, so can’t even comment on centimetre/inch/foot accuracy, alas) and what they call a slip of the tongue (I wish) that Eva took in great spirit.
Now, I must confess to having fantasised about this individual’s anatomy more than once (X, not Eva), as I started to explain by way of apology (Geez, if I’m in a hole, why don’t I stop digging?), but then I think a great deal about a lot of men’s anatomy. It was just that once the C word and this particular individual’s name were in the same sentence, my brain joined them together in a synergy that seemed totally natural, and the words “big kiss” were doomed never to air.
I also put the incident down to extreme stress. Having been promised an “exclusive” with Ms Longoria when I met her UK PR in Portugal, I had delayed my flight back to LA from London, and at my newspaper’s great expense travelled to Spain, where I hung around for a week, awaiting the constantly changing arrangements.
The much-anticipated event would take place on Friday. Then Wednesday. Then Thursday. There were interviews and photo-shoots to be done, people to see, rehearsals to take place for the Eva Longoria Foundation event, which was the reason I was there – to give publicity to her. For her charity. For the poor and under-privileged young women and children she helps the world over. Not only was she guaranteed a double page, 2000 word spread, the paper was going to make a substantial donation to the charity (which the Foundation managed to get substantially increased in return for our “exclusive”).
The negotiations that followed would bore a mortuary, so I will be brief. Contracts between the star’s representatives and the paper went back and for, and a time was negotiated up from 30 minutes for both the pictures and me -15 each - to 15 for him and 30 for me. I tell you, electing the House of Representatives could not take longer. When the party arrived (having kept us waiting for well over an hour while Ms Longoria did a shoot for the hotel), her people effectively set the timer and told me I had 15 minutes.
“I only ever do interviews of 15 minutes,” she sweetly explained, as I spluttered disbelief. Really? Fifteen minutes, for 2000 words?
I all but shoved her out on the balcony for the photo shoot while I tried to negotiate more time, but it was all to no avail. Nine hundred seconds was my lot. Take it or leave it.
There are two things to do in these circumstances: you politely make your excuses and leave, knowing that the piece will never make the paper, or you take what you’re given and hope that the star lets their guard down and reveals that they are dying of a terrible disease and/or pregnant. Or you can waste five minutes of the 15 you have been allotted on the subject of BCs – which is what I had already done.
I had been trying to amass as much information as I could that I was clearly not going to get from her verbally. She is undoubtedly beautiful. So, so beautiful, I began to think that I might renounce BCs of every nation for all time and become a lesbian. However, a few deep breaths and a few good memories (although, not that many, come to think of it) quickly brought me to my senses.
Great skin, long eyelashes (albeit false – I just knew I was wasting my money on those eight tubes of Million Dollar Lashes she advertises for L’Oreal), long dark hair, eyes of coal, teeth in which I could see my reflection, a tiny waist, exquisitely dressed, beautiful manicure . . . Oh, God, just give me a one-way ticket to the Empire State Building, so I can throw myself off. Interestingly, though, she is not what I would call sexy. Charming, funny, gorgeous, but it feels like something turned on for the camera, which, given the limitations of 15 minutes, it has to be.
So, here I am, sitting opposite the Desperate Housewives Hollywood actress and superstar, who is in Marbella to talk about her philanthropic work through the Eva Longoria Foundation. From the moment she opens her perfectly lip-glossed mouth, she speaks with a fervour and energy that is not only inspired but inspiring. I want to rush out of the penthouse in the five star Gran Melia Don Pepe hotel, where the interview is taking place, and live on dried beans in an African shack and teach English for the rest of my life. Well, not quite, but she makes helping others sound as exciting and gratifying as receiving an Oscar and barbecuing with the Spielbergs on Independence Day.
Longoria was one of my heroines when I first moved to LA in 2009. Given that she is just two inches taller than me, I looked to her for my inspiration to acquire the perfect Hollywood shape. I inform her of this and my belief in what I came to call The Eva Longoria Diet. “Really?” she says, eyes orbing into space and smiling like a kid on Christmas morning. “What was it?”
It all comes flooding back. A plate of crisps arrived at my table in the five star Beverly Wilshire and I looked at them longingly before asking: Would Eva Longoria eat them? Well, no. You don’t get to be and maintain a size zero, not to mention acquire a perfect mouth that looks as if it has just had a lipstick manicure, by ramming a plate of deep fried potatoes down your throat. So, it was farewell to the crisps. When they brought my English breakfast tea, it arrived with a long dish of Italian sweetmeats and biscuits. Would Eva Longoria eat them? Only if you chloroformed her first and force-fed them.
I applied the same rule to all bars and restaurants and looked longingly down their list of pastas. Spaghetti Calamari and Broccoli, Fusilliani alla Trentina, Tarte Con Argosta – all unusual dishes that I had never seen on Italian menus in the UK. And, as I went down the list, I asked over and over: Would Eva Longoria eat it? No, no, no. Just a black espresso for me, please.
Asking the question was a guaranteed way to lose weight, and I believed that I had inadvertently stumbled upon the perfect diet: because the answer to the question “Would Eva Longoria eat it?” was always going to be No.
I suspected that Eva, like every other thin woman in LA, enjoyed playing with the occasional leaf – without dressing (are you crazy?) – and I perfected the art of steering a leaf around my plate without ever consuming it, while giving the impression that I was stuffing my face. Over the radish, under the yellow pepper, slalom over the red onion – I could make a leaf’s journey around my plate last longer than a Grand Prix. And, by the end of its course, it really did look half consumed. And if the answer to Would Eva Longoria eat it? was No, the answer to Would Eva Longoria drink it? was: You must be insane. Glass of champagne? 150 calories. Dry white wine? 120. You didn’t shrink to the kind of shape that gets blown away in an LA earthquake by consuming empty calories.
None of this I could tell her, though, because we were already well into the 15 minutes, so I just said “Move a leaf around a plate”, which seemed to be the gist of it.
“Oh, no,” she said. “I eat. I eat a lot. I really love my food.”
Dear Lord, I swear we were now well over halfway through my allotted 15 minutes, and we were still no further on than men’s anatomy and lettuce.
I managed to excavate the fact that Longoria has used her high profile as an actor to draw attention to the plight of the underprivileged through the Foundation. The Global Gift Gala in Marbella was one of seven events that aim to profile the plight of young women and children around the world, and the tireless efforts not only on the part of Longoria, but of her two friends and business partners, Maria and Alina, have helped so many the world over. The Foundation has two arms – entrepreneurial and educational – and it is, as Tony Blair once said, education, education, education, that is the driving force behind Longoria’s philosophy. She believes that it is this, rather than looks, that is the key to today’s young women. Looking like she does, I am tempted to say: “It’s all very well for you to say that.”
She gets most excited when I break the news that Simon Cowell is about to become a father, although she adds that she would keep any daughter of hers away from The X Factor. “I got my education first and had my bachelor’s degree before I became an actor, so I would say that for anybody – woman, young woman, young man. I’m sure Simon will have a unique situation because he’s Simon, but . . . I LOVE Simon, I think he’s an amazing man. I love him.”
We were now pretty much at 14 and a half minutes, and there was no news of any pregnancy or break-up, and certainly no offer of a free L’Oreal mascara so that I could turn overnight into Eva Longoria.
In terms of non-interviews, this was about as “non” as it was possible to get, and I learned nothing that I could not have already gleaned the internet and other interviews; unsurprisingly, the piece was never published. My paper also dropped the contribution to the charity as a result of the alleged breach of promise (I wonder how many children/women lost out as a result?). There was a bit of comfort in hearing that she liked me and told her people: “I’ve never met a woman shorter than me.” Maybe. But then I’ve never met a woman who finishes in under 15 minutes.
At least I got to hear Eva Longoria say “cock”, though; and, I suspect, among interviewers, that probably already puts me at the top of the league.