Two helicopters curve along the Potomac River before rising up over the Lincoln Memorial, blotting the sky and strangling the conversation. ‘Hey George!’ Laurie David shouts as it becomes apparent that they are the presidential helicopters. ‘Watch the goddam film!’ The helicopters bank towards the White House, keeping formation. ‘He still claims not to have watched it,’ she says with a springy, Long Island accent and a throaty laugh. ‘I’m hoping his daughters will watch it and then persuade him to watch it too.’ She resumes eating her sushi with a fork. Laurie David is too busy for chopsticks.
The film she refers to is An Inconvenient Truth, the one she produced, the one which won the Oscar, the one which David Cameron has said should be shown in every school. The film was her idea; she approached the former Vice-President Al Gore about making it after she heard him give his famous slide presentation on Global Warming. Although she refers to herself as ‘a Jewish mother from Long Island’, her political clout extends far beyond the suburbs. Arguably, she is America’s foremost green campaigner. She has written a bestselling book, The Solution is You: Stop Global Warming – An Activist’s Guide. And, though a Democrat herself, she has teamed up with the Republican Senator John McCain to organise a virtual march on Washington — already they have almost a million signatures. She also persuaded Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, to go green — along with half the stars in Hollywood. In terms of her networking powers in Hollywood, it doesn’t hurt that she is married to Larry David, the comedian who co-wrote Seinfeld, the biggest grossing sitcom of all time (he made more than $200 million from the syndication rights). But she could probably have done it on her own. She is a feisty woman, no question. And a driven one. And as her husband tells me when I meet him in Maryland the next day: ‘She is not an easy woman to say no to.’ But that is to come.
For now she and I are having lunch sitting outside a restaurant in Washington. Parked nearby is the stopglobalwarming.org bus she and Sheryl Crow have spend the past 10 days touring across the Deep South in, stopping to spread the word at colleges. David makes speeches, Crow plays her guitar and sings songs. ‘The bus runs on vegetable oil,’ she says, flicking back her shoulder length, coal black hair. ‘Bio diesel. Our driver said something to me yesterday, which made me think “yes”. He is a good old boy from Texas and he said that after listening to my speeches he had decided not to waste water by washing the whole bus. He’d just do the tyres. A bit of dirt wouldn’t hurt, he said. I thought yes, that’s it. That is the whole point right there.’
They have become quite a double act, David and Crow (whom I shall also meet the following day). ‘I never thought I’d end up with Sheryl. I didn’t know her a year ago. Now she is my best friend. She has taken a risk because being a rock star people might mock her for getting serious about this issue, but she feels she has to.’ David laughs when I ask if they do a duet. ‘Sheryl was horrified after the first show when she realised I was tone deaf. She handed me a tambourine at one point and immediately took it away again.’
She stares straight at you as she talks, unblinkingly, with grass green eyes. She is friendly and self deprecating but also passionate, animated and impatient. She can talk about global warming until, well, she tells me she can become a bore on the subject at dinner parties if she is not careful. ‘We like to socialise a lot in Hollywood and guests can get caught with me. I have to check myself. But when people ask me about global warming I can’t stop myself. It consumes me. It occupies my every waking thought. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing at night.’
I am reminded of something Larry David wrote about her in the introduction to her book. When he first met her she was “a materialistic, narcissistic, superficial, bosomy woman from Long Island. She read People magazine, watched hours of mindless television, and shopped like there was no tomorrow. Finally, I had met someone as shallow as me.” Then he sensed something had begun to change. “She started peppering her conversation with words like ozone layer, sustainable forestry, and toxic runoff. I began to notice new people hanging around the house, people who were not in show business and wore a lot of tweed.”
When I mention this she says. ‘Yeah then look what he ended up with. I guess I always wanted to be a running a Hollywood studio but when your husband has the most successful comedy show on television where do you go from there. How do you compete?’
It is a telling comment. On some level she seems to be in competition with her husband. She was quite competitive as a child, she says, being the youngest of three sisters. Her campaigning side first manifested itself when she felt not enough people were buying the Beatles last album Let it Be so she cut out advert for it and went around pinning them to trees in mile radius around her house. . ‘They never thanked me!’ She was 10. Her background was conventional enough. Her father serviced swimming pools, she read magazine journalism at college and one of her first jobs was working in a car showroom. ‘Me selling cars! Ha! The irony!’ She later landed a job as a talent coordinator for the David Letterman show in New York. It was there she met Larry, although Letterman turned him down, which is now a source of some amusement to both of them. Four years later she left to start her own management company, representing comedians as well as comedy writers, but not Larry who she says is ‘unmanageable’.
So how did she get from there to here — from showbiz to green activism? ‘What really gave me a sense of urgency about this was when my first daughter was born [they have two aged 11 and 13]. I really started to worry, like I had this warning bell that went off inside me: Danger! Danger! I thought: What can I do? How can I use my contacts to do something about this? We have to warn people. It terrifies me. It should terrify everyone.’
She sure used her contacts. Not only did she produce the comedy special, Earth to America! which featured Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, Steve Martin and Jack Black, she also began holding ‘eco salons’ with scientists as guest speakers. The Hollywood A list attended, everyone from Leonardo di Cario and Cameron Diaz to Angelina Jolie. ‘I have a big house,’ David says with a shrug. ‘I use it to gather hundreds of people for eco-salons.’ When I ask whether the stop global warming campaign isn’t, well, you know, the latest fashionable cause she becomes a little defensive. ‘That’s good if it’s fashionable. We want it to be fashionable. But I am aware of the snarky comments: that in Hollywood we are just preaching to the converted. That was why I wanted to this bus tour with Sheryl through Middle America. Anyway you can’t say someone like Leonardo di Caprio is just following fashion. He bought the first hybrid way before they became fashionable.’ She refers to the Toyota Prius, a ‘hybrid car, part electrical part bio fuel. There is now a nine-month waiting list for them in Hollywood, thanks to her. ‘Yeah,’ she acknowledges with a laugh. ‘I ought to be on a percentage from Toyota.’ She made them fashionably partly by persuading her friends who produce TV shows to feature them. She got one on to 24, for example. And Larry drives one in the semi autobiographical comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry’s plays a curmudgeonly comedian with a tolerant wife. He is a semi-retired sitcom mogul who ambles through his inordinately comfortable life, routinely managing to annoy or infuriate everyone around him, including blind people and the mentally ill.
Cheryl Hines plays Larry’s ‘wife’ in the show. Although the TV wife is a green activist she spends her days gossiping with friends and worrying about her wardrobe. Laurie, by contrast, is far more focused on the fight. “At first I demanded the actress playing me be a red head, so as people wouldn’t confuse us. But I settled for a blonde. People do still get confused though, on the school run, I mean. They assume the screen wife is based on me, but actually she is much nicer to Larry than I am.’ I imagine the episode in which Larry has a pubic hair stuck in his throat raised eyebrows. ‘Well, that’s what I’m talking about. There were comments next day. The lunch moms at school all gave me funny looks.’
In another episode Larry reminds Cheryl of her promise that after 10 years of marriage she would reward his faithfulness by letting him sleep with another woman. Larry and Laurie had that conversation, but only as a joke. Is she sometimes shocked though about how far he takes his comedy? ‘I don’t think it’s a matter of him going too far, he just likes to explore ideas, test boundaries.’ Does the autobiographical element of the show make her feel self conscious at home? ‘I don’t think he is trying out material on me all the time, but he does keep a ratty little brown notebook and is constantly scribbling ideas in it. Situations. Awkward social moments.
They sound like a nightmare couple to invite round: her boring on about global warming, him scribbling in his notebook. She laughs. ‘Yeah well. What can you do? You know, the big difference between our characters in the show is that he is quite shy in real life and I am much more confrontational that him. pull up alongside Hummer drivers on the highway and yell at them. , ‘Do you know what you’re driving? How many miles a gallon do you get in that?’ Then we get into an altercation and my husband’s horrified and begs me to change my last name back to my maiden name.” “I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove,” David said later. “I went over to him and said, I urge you to take a new look at global warming. He went zero to 100 with me. … I’ve never had anyone be so rude.” Rove said: “She came over to insult me, and she succeeded.”
Also if he was sitting here now he would be telling you about the 45 minutes it took him to get from the airport, which routes he took, what the diversions were, how long he had to wait at the traffic lights. Me, I’d cover that stuff in 5 seconds.’
He sounds infuriating to live with. ‘Hey, I guess I’m no picnic.’ Because she is a tyrant about green living? ‘Well Larry does get the brunt of it. Him and the kids. I won’t let them take long showers or run the water too much when they are brushing their teeth. I won’t let them leave adapters plugs in or stand by lights on. Everyone has to use both sides of the paper for printing and faxing. We recycle obsessively. And since I get a lot of clothes dry-cleaned, I take a garment bag to the dry cleaner so I don’t waste the disposable plastic covers. We also use the old polysterene cups when we go to Starbucks — 25 billion polystyrene cups are thrown away each year. That’s crazy. We should complain. I’m getting very good at complaining.
low energy light bulbs? ‘In every room’
Solar panels. ‘We tried to have them fitted but they wouldn’t work with our house.
David into a hate figure for the American right. She was ranked 82 in the book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. She has been dubbed a ‘Gulfstream liberal’ for flying occasionally in a private jet. This is not about perfection. I don’t expect anybody else to be perfect either. That’s what hurts the environmental movement – holding people to a standard they cannot meet. That just pushes people away.”
What about using private jets though? ‘I try not to fly by private jet so much anymore. I have the frequent flier miles to prove it.
I’ve been reading the blogs I say. The abusive stuff? I no longer read the replies. You get people like Rush limburgh mocking Hollywood liberals..’ surely she must see he is trying to get a rise out of her. he’s only saying it to get a laugh. ‘I know I know I live with a comedian I know about comedy but what he says is just irresponsible and wrong.
Still the blogs show there are still a lot of global warming deniers out there. ‘yes there are but they are just clutching at straws. The game is up. We’ve nailed the argument. In fact there is no augment any more. When you have 2000 of the world’s leadings scientist in this field agreeing there is no argument. There was that programme you had in the UK and they found one or two scientists who disagreed but why were they given them air time. It’s irresponsible.
I tell her about the feature we ran in this paper by that arch Global warming denying Lord Monckton, that and the response it elicited the following week from Al Gore. She is aware of both. How does she explain the medieval warm period theory. ‘I think Al countered that most effectively in the film, when he argued that this’d been proven and anyway there has never been anything like the rise in recent years. the deniers are just contrarianism. It’s a way of getting attention. You go against the orthodoxy. The media is being irresponsible when it gives these people a voice. They should move on there has to be some culpability. You have to question why people are saying that. Some are grossly misinformed some people are being paid to misinform you. If you were sick and you went to 98 doctors who all told you were sick and had to get on medicine then you went to two doctors who maybe didn’t have a licence or weren’t peer reviewed and you said OK like who are you listening to. We have to reject that and get past it
Actually England is way ahead of us… the Stern report. That was the right message, get capitalists to sit up and take notice. I was talking to the head of American Express and he said he is on message now because it makes business sense do something now
`Surely she has won the argument, with Bush acknowledging Global Warming in his State of the Union address last January. ‘ yeah but he was only acknowledging it when is he going to do something about it. This is going to be his legacy, this and Iraq. Global warming is a big issue of national security. Look at New Orleans. How are future generations going to judge him for doing nothing on this?
We now face the most urgent challenge of our lifetime. We now have less than ten years to slow global warming down otherwise we set ourselves on course we will not be able to correct. 2000 leading scientists from 150 countries have reached this conclusion. Global warming is happening and it is happening faster than anyone anticipated. As things stand we are already guarantee two degrees of warming but we dare not go above that. The difference between one degree is a Popsicle frozen and a puddle on the floor… Last year was the hottest on record in the states. The winter was the hottest and you heard people saying hey I’m in Chicago and its January and its seventy degrees isn’t that great? Well it’s not going to be so great when its 110 in June. Global warming means extreme weather in both direction Ha Ha so cold out! so much for global warming. No. global warming means more extreme blizzards, tornadoes, and floods. Almost every day the evening news brings us another sever weather report, always record breaking. We are causing it. Hurricane Katrina is just a taste of what is to come if we don’t stop global warming. Nature ferocity knows no bounds
People are saying they hey it was cold today so much for your their but that its the point it is erratic weather. We will be getting the wrong whether at the wrong time of year and already people are noticing. I think the days of the same waring tree hugging environmentalist image is over. We are all environmentalist now. It effects us all people start noticing. You go skiing and there is no snow.
we are the biggest source of the problem doing the least about it — 25% of the world Co2 emission comes from America.
It was hard to get him to do stand-up for this he is very contrary he has walked out on audiences. You know if a barmaid talking. .. David’s onstage manner was almost wilfully uningratiating. He was intense and bespectacled, bald David has a lanky, wiry build and an athletic, slightly bowlegged walk. At 58 he is 10 years older than his wife. His cranium is long and sleek, surrounded by a fringe of curly whitish hair that is neatly trimmed, except for rampant sideburns.
an alumni of Maryland University he is persuaded to come on stage and sing the university song. He also does a turn. I see him back stage doing a zipper check. His zipper has broken. I realise what I do isn’t nearly so important as what she does. I’m not saving the planet or anything! Just trying to make people laugh. Nothing wrong with that. People like to laug
Larry says:the last five years I’ve been having to use recycled toilet paper and let me tell you, its no picnic. That recycled paper. It’s the kind of paper you’d find on a whaling vessel.
‘She won’t let me do is use too much water,’ he confirms. ‘If the shower is on for two minutes she will run in and flick the curtain open. “You’re done.” You’re wasting water. But I haven’t used condition yet. You don’t need to condition. Conditioning is over rated. But the worse thing is that I have had to sit through an inconvenient truth 14 times. I’ve been to screenings in Saudi Arabia. I mean I love Al Gore but enough is enough… His wife he says sees global warming in everything. Look honey the ice cream melted. …
Sheryl straps her acoustic guitar on: and sings a change will do you good. She plays ‘every day’s a winding road’ Laurie and I met six months ago and have been sleeping together for two weeks, across the aisle from each other. I thought lets get a tour bus and load it up with vegetable oil. They hand out light bulbs at the end. I’m trying to convince Laurie we should do this again in the fall when they are session. She is joking Everyone should limit themselves to one square of toilet tissue.
Sheryl: ‘I’m a worrier, I worry about things, although it’s a waste of energy. Laurie and I made a trip through new Orleans it was frighten ning to see what global warming can do. We have an opportunity here to slow everything down.
The mayor of new York is here, a friend
She comes off and says: ‘That’s the first time I did the dancing on stage. I dance on the side of eth stage every night’
I ask Sheryl if she is going to miss it. ‘I am, I really am. I’m trying to persuade Laurie to do it again in the Fall when parliament is in session. I’ve never been so mission orientated. Neither of us are making any money out of this by the way.’
Was she nervous about what people might say about another rock star with a message: ‘You know what I say to that? I don’t care. I feel like I represent the person who think I am so afraid is it too late to make a difference. I’ve been learning a lot about it. Having knowledge about this can be a burden but at least there is some let up when you realise there are things you can do.
I think all rock tours are going to go this way. Bio diesel buses. You can earn a green seal when your tour REM and Coldplay Coldplay has overset its tours and CDs by planting trees
The major of Newark and Gayle King is editor-at-large The Oprah Winfrey Show Magazine and is the best friend of Oprah Winfrey. Larry: Whenever you hear the word rich prick usually comes after it same with poor and schmuck
They are endlessly mocked for it.
I mention people are lining up to mock this? Rosie O’Donnell’s line was “Have you seen my a–?”
Then there’s the hypocrisy factor: The website www.thesmokinggun.com tracked down the contract for Crow’s concert tour, which demands, among other things, parking space for “three tractor trailers, four buses, six cars.”
She gets on the bus and she kisses me goodbye on both cheeks, a eco warrior certainly but still a little Hollywood.