Friday’s farewell version of the Wendy Williams Present hit all of the anticipated notes.
A shoutout to the viewers for his or her fierce help drew a standing ovation from the studio viewers. Vanessa Williams, the present’s first visitor, returned to have fun the 57-year-old chatshow host as a real media pioneer. And to shut the present, comic Sherri Shepherd threw to a spotlight reel of Williams’ best hits – not least following by way of with a promise to eat an actual crow if Kanye and Kim ever married.
All that was lacking was, nicely, the precise host.
In fact that is why the Wendy Williams Present is signing off, after 1,500-plus episodes. Altogether, this system endured for 14 years and possibly may have gone on for extra had Williams’ well being crises and private and monetary tumult seemingly quashed her enthusiasm for boldly trafficking in superstar gossip with out worrying whether or not what she was saying was true or not, or whether or not that offended anybody.
Regardless that she hasn’t hosted the present in particular person since 2020, her departure from daytime is of a bit with a broader turnaround and not as a result of Williams did not sustain with the occasions. If something, the previous radio shock jock was forward of the curve, altering the tone and tempo of rumor-mongering as gossip expanded out from the tabloids and TV newsmagazines into social media.
“That is the perfect present ever,” she stated at one level within the spotlight reel. “I swear if I wasn’t right here doing it, I might be at residence watching.” One of many final photographs within the reel was her empty chair. And in that void lingers a difficult legacy that did as a lot to burnish gossip journalism as tarnish it.
Amid the cacophony of daytime TV sirens, the 5ft 10in Williams rang out loudest. If her dramatic bodily presence didn’t cease informal viewers of their tracks, her massive mouth nearly definitely would. Whereas Ellen Degeneres performed good with company and The View waded into troublesome discussions, Williams went all the best way in – embellishing tabloid gossip, throwing shade at well-known company and in any other case being messy for the pure enjoyment of it. The more durable she batted her pretend lashes and sipped her tea, the extra viewers ate it up. Williams wasn’t only a hit with the everyday daytime crowd, her viewers skewed younger and numerous.
Her most outspoken champions had been inconceivable kinds like John Oliver, who as soon as devoted a section of Final Week Tonight to Williams consuming a lamb chop in her kitchen whereas filming at residence throughout Covid. “The extra you watch Wendy, the extra you notice that chaos isn’t an issue with the present, it’s what makes it work,” intoned Oliver, earlier than channeling that very same power and consuming a sandwich on digicam because the credit rolled. “If this makes you uncomfortable, you would possibly need to fuck off and watch one thing else.” And when this clip discovered its method again into Williams’ present, Wendy being Wendy, snort-laughed.
At the same time as her profile rose and her vogue price range elevated, Williams by no means made herself out to be something apart from a homebody Jersey woman who would slightly dish a couple of purple carpet than flip up on oneself. Spending an hour along with her was like being inside earshot of your mother’s loose-lipped hair stylist, by no means figuring out what bombshell would drop subsequent.
Williams’s sharp tongue was stropped on hip-hop radio, the place she emerged as one of many first ladies in addition to the actor-performer Angie Martinez. A cameo on Fox’s hit ’90s sitcom Martin – her first TV credit score, by the way – was affirmation of the super respect Williams commanded in a male-dominated trade. A morning drive persona within the early 90s, Williams was plugged right into a satellite tv for pc function as a visitors reporter, sprinkling the most recent grime into her rush-hour reviews, telling so many tales about Black celebrities that they’d name into her station and attempt to get her sacked. Throughout one present she introduced up allegations of sexual misconduct in opposition to Invoice Cosby solely to be hauled into her boss’s workplace and compelled to apologize to America’s dad, on speakerphone. Previous fan mail has included bullets and useless fish.
Her brazenness on air endeared her to legions of followers and, earlier than lengthy, earned her prime billing and a hard-won popularity as a scores turnaround artist with a tireless work ethic. However that success did not make her any softer on the wealthy and well-known.
In a 2003 on-air trade with Whitney Houston, Williams didn’t hesitate to grill the legendary singer about allegations of drug abuse, home violence and monetary points, and Houston did not again down from the struggle. (It is nonetheless probably the most talked-about interview Williams has ever performed.) However Williams did not shy from speaking about her personal struggles with drug habit or her issues conceiving or her plastic surgical procedures or her dalliances with well-known music trade varieties both, at the same time as her radio exhibits went nationwide.
All of the whereas she was a mentor to Charlamagne tha God, who rose to prominence as a Williams sidekick. A controversial post-trial interview with OJ Simpson in studio was one of many few occasions Williams considerably suspended her innate skepticism and alienated her loyal followers. “Rattling you, I such as you,” she stated, after falling for the ex-football nice’s appears to be like and polish. “Rattling you, OJ Simpson, you are charming.”
Nonetheless, nobody noticed this sly pot stirrer who greeted callers by purring “The way you doin” carving a distinct segment on daytime TV. On 14 July 2008, 4 days earlier than her forty fourth birthday, the Wendy Williams Present debuted. Inside a yr, viewers throughout the nation had been tuning in droves to please in her sparring matches with Omarosa or pulling random equipment out of her wigs and décolletage. However she may simply as simply make audiences cringe along with her informal recklessness, like when she dismissed the homicide of the TikTok idol Swavy and saying Beyoncé “appears like she has a fifth-grade schooling”.
However lots of Williams’s targets had been massive followers too. Some took masochistic enjoyment of sitting within the sizzling seat subsequent to hers, others merely reveled in having an viewers with the “queen of all media”; on the very least, each teams had been assured to get equal time to flash their contemporary leather-based on Williams’s shoe cam.
The cracks didn’t actually start to point out till 2017, when Williams fainted on dwell TV whereas dressed because the Statue of Liberty for Halloween. It was shortly thereafter that she disclosed a longtime analysis for Graves’ illness (an immune dysfunction that triggers hyperthyroidism) and her marriage to Kevin Hunter, her supervisor and producer on her talkshow, publicly fell aside. Simply earlier than the pandemic she revealed that she had been dwelling at a sober home. Earlier this yr Williams’s financial institution, Wells Fargo, froze her accounts and requested a New York supreme court docket listening to to find out whether or not she wanted a guardianship.
The extra Williams’s personal private life turned gossip fodder, it appears, the more durable it turned for her to point out up at work. And but for years her loyal manufacturing staff has saved the present going with a rotation of visitor hosts which have included the actor Michael Rapaport, a legendary provocateur; hip-hop mogul Nick Cannon, who landed his personal daytime talkshow within the discount; and Sherri Shepherd, who’s slated to take over Williams’ time slot. Williams just isn’t pleased about this, however a number of months in the past her TV bosses stated they had been leaving the door open if Williams needed to return.
What she does subsequent is anybody’s guess. She’s performed herself in characteristic movies, made a gonzo TV film and an excellent wilder documentary about her life, and guested on Drag Race (to the consternation of a queer neighborhood that holds a grudge in opposition to her for previous offenses and her zeal for outing homosexual celebs); it appears as if she may pop up on Bravo’s Actual Housewives franchise as a result of she’s already prolonged household. However any abiding viewer is aware of that will be settling for much less. Williams at her greatest is a grasp soloist; does not matter if she’s chewing the fats or biting into precise leftovers. A pre-taped goodbye tribute may by no means sum up a exceptional TV run that ought to by no means have ended, and would possibly by no means be matched.