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Katie Puckrik - Brief Article - Interview

When media savvy, power-brokered all-women's television network Oxygen launches this month, it will light a fire under a hungry viewership eager for more than the rambling soft focus of the Lifetime Channel. Leading the pack will be Katie Puckrik, host and creator of Pajama Party, a centerpiece of the network's spirit of sassy yet stimulating programming. Part confessional, part nostalgia trip, part rousing roundtable, Puckrik's party is an adult reimagining of one of our earliest social proving grounds: the slumber party. A regular cast of frank, fearless women are led through conversation and celebrity interviews by onetime Pet Shop Boys dancer and classically trained ballerina, radio host, journalist, memoirist, and English television touchstone Katie--the McLaughlin Group in marabou nighties. Puckrik is an American who has spent the last sixteen years in London, where she originated Pajama Party. The show made her a household name there as it inadvertently struck back at the exploding "New lad" movement. But the lads loved her as much as the girls did. Now, after years as Britain's favorite TV Yank, she's back home.

ALISON POWELL: You went to London hoping to become a pop star. How did you begin your career in television?

KATIE PUCKRIK: I stumbled into TV completely accidentally. I was a new-wave teenager in northern Virginia, and I just fell in love with another new-wave teenager from London and wound up over there, making pop music and dancing with companies like Michael Clark and DV8. I was kind of spreading the old entertainment fertilizer far and wide.

AP: So what was your big break?

KP: A friend of mine told me that this big pop culture entertainment show in Britain called The Word was looking for somebody fresh off the streets to host it. I auditioned against 5,000 other people and got the job.

AP: The Word search was a huge cultural event. The public followed it very closely.

KP: It was particularly unusual because I'm American. In Britain, it seems like there's only one American allowed at a time on TV.

AP: What's the premise behind Pajama Party?

KP: It's a late-night talk show where everyone is at my bachelorette pad in their jimjams, and the audience are on the set--lounging around, eating popcorn, having a martini--and then a celebrity guest comes in and we talk about bizarre trends and things that are going on in the culture.

AP: What pushed you to create it originally?

KP: I thought the most natural thing in the world would be to write a show that sums up what I best enjoy, which is hanging around with my girlfriends on a weekend late at night, getting a little tipsy on a martini or two, sitting around in our Butterfield 8 slut slips, and just shootin' the breeze. And it occurred to me that it's pretty much the grown-up version of the pajama party. When you think about it, this kind of gathering is a profound natural instinct for young women. It's the first female forum that you know. It's the first time you get a chance to have reference points. You get a klatch of girls together and you're finding out: Oh, your parents let you do this, and you do that and wear that. And then there's that whole truth-or-dare vibe. You're seeing what is taboo and what you can get away with and how courageous you are. The idea behind Pajama Party was to turn that experience into entertainment.

AP: How does Pajama Party fit into Oxygen's ethos?

KP: The network is going to have a frisky, irreverent approach. American television is so sentimental, with syrupy music and slow motion. Oxygen is going to have a bit more gusto.

AP: You were involved in The Vagina Monologues in London last Valentine's Day. Now it's running off Broadway in New York and has become a place where women go to start a dialogue about their experiences. Does it seem strange to you that women still have relatively few outlets for community and conversation?

KP: When I first heard of The Vagina Monologues, I was sort of inwardly rolling my eyes. Then I read Eve Ensler's book, and was really moved because her premise is that women, even now, years since the first wave of feminism, don't really know their own bodies. If anything, Western society teaches women to be disgusted by their bodies. The message is: Please, by all means, disguise the fact that there are smells, secretions, hair. Please get rid of the fact that your belly is soft and you have inner thighs that bulge gently. We have to deny that.

AP: It seems like one of your roles in England was to say what others couldn't. As a result, Pajama Party became pretty political.

KP: I do speak my mind and I am happy to stand up for my beliefs and allow them to inform everything I do. If I can't be frank about my own beliefs then I can't expect a guest that I'm interviewing to be equally frank.

AP: What topics are you most interested in now?

KP: My observation is that it's not hard to be subversive if you're a woman. For instance, I just moved to Hollywood and I feel subversive when I go out to the diner and have pancakes for breakfast. I'll be meeting these wafer-thin Hollywood actresses and they look on with great admiration as I click my fingers for another side of bacon. Women are filled with doubt about the smallest things. So in that way, my show is quite political. It actually makes me feel less self-conscious on camera if I'm chewing. So I find myself eating Sugar Babies and chewing on popcorn, and then asking the guests if I have food in my teeth. It seems like an act of rebellion to eat in public if you're a woman, and to be seen to enjoy it.