We thought the Late Show portion of Anna Wintour's Make-People-Like-Me-Before-My-Contract-Is-Up Tour 2009 would be a disaster. Until Letterman asked about The Devil Wears Prada. Then we knew she was safe, because she could never come off worse than Miranda Priestly.
The character created by one-time Wintour assistant Lauren Weisberger and portrayed (brilliantly!) in the movie by Meryl Streep is a caricatured version of the magazine tyrant meant to sell books and movie tickets. She throws her coat and bag at her assistants, she has exacting standards for how her lunch is cooked and the temperature of Starbucks, and she sacrifices her friends to keep her job.
Wintour may do all these things too, but last night, America tuned in hoping to see the beast come to life, and instead they got a mildly self-depreciating lady who championed fashion's ability to do good and pooh-poohed the stories of her cruelty. She was kind of sweet, at least compared to the cartoon version of her we're used to. Miranda Priestly would have crawled over the desk and eaten Dave's head. Anna Wintour just made a few jokes about his socks.
And that's why Weisberger did her boss the biggest public relations favor when she betrayed her by writing The Devil Wears Prada: No matter what Wintour does on Letterman or at the 92nd St. Y or on 60 Minutes or in front of a documentary crew for The September Issue (and she does some shitty things), she'll never be as bad as her trumped-up alter ego. The most telling moment of last night was when she strutted onto the set of the Ed Sullivan Theater wearing her trademark sunglasses, only to take them off to do her interview. With that she told us, "Yes, I am an icon and you think you know me, but guess what, I'm not that bad." And, you know what, she's probably right.