Gossip columnist Cindy Adams' bold-faced life

Since 1981, Cindy Adams' gossip column has been a fixture of the New York Post, for which she's written about the private lives and public foibles of celebrities, movie stars, mobsters and politicians. Pages ripped from the tabloid double as wallpaper in her home office.

"I don't even know what this stuff is – who remembers it?" she said, pointing out one faded headline.

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Columnist Cindy Adams with Mo Rocca in her office, which is wallpapered with headlines and articles from her four-decade career. 

CBS News

Correspondent Mo Rocca asked her, "How do you define 'gossip'?"

"I don't like the word 'gossip,' because it's pejorative," Adams replied. "It doesn't have to be nasty and biting. It should be chatty. It should be funny. It should be something you do over coffee in the morning."

The 88-year-old is guided by a very practical philosophy: "If you were good to me, and you were my friend, I will be loyal forever. If you were evil to me, if I don't get you in this life, I'll get you in the next one."

Adams pointed out to Rocca, "I know Donald Trump longer than you are alive. The night Donald became president, I was with him. And he leaned over to me and he said: 'Can you believe this?' He was always good to me. And I will always be his friend. The only time he was ever angry with me was when I thoughtlessly did not go to his father's funeral. Why I didn't go, who remembers? And he was angry. He said: 'You didn't respect my father.'"

Cynthia Heller was raised in New York City by her single mom, Jessica. "She moved my hairline back," Adams said. "She fixed my nose. She made me lose weight. She sent me to a drama school. She sent me to an elocution school."

"Usually when someone tells that kind of a story, it's followed by '… And I resent her for doing that,'" said Rocca.

"I'm grateful!" Adams replied. "If she hadn't done that, for God's sake, I would look like Bloomberg."

"Bloomberg's not a bad-looking guy."

"No, he's a rich guy. So, that's what makes him look good!"

She modeled (she says she won 57 beauty pageant titles), and in 1952, she married comedian Joey Adams (not to be confused with Joey Bishop).

"He was not the Seinfeld of today or the Bob Hope of yesterday," Adams said. "But he had a number one lifestyle."

"How old were you when you got married?" Rocca asked.

"Depends. I lie so much. I would say about 17."

"I think you were 22."

"No, I wasn't."

"That's what some sources say."

"Some sources have me as 105, also! But no, and they say that I can barely walk, and that I'm dying Thursday. I was about 17."

Joey was 41, and seemed to know everyone in show business and politics. "I was going to dinner with Joey's friends, like Frank Sinatra," Adams said. "Those are the people that I grew up with."

Joey was writing a humor column in the New York Post, when the newspaper asked his well-connected wife to write a column of her own. Said Cindy, "Mo, I never wanted to do this column. Never. I wanted to write the Great American Novel."

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New York Post

But what movie stars and mobsters revealed to Adams often made front-page news, like "How Suite It Was! Secret hotel romps of Donald & Marla."

Adams was especially drawn to authoritarians, like the Shah of Iran and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

Rocca leaned in to ask, "What was Noriega's complexion like up close?

"Not good," she replied. "But how many people got that close to see it? I mean, you didn't get really close. I didn't hug him or kiss him. He wasn't attractive. But, something about dictators, it's attractive."

"Who has been your favorite dictator?"

"Well, it would've been Sukarno, 'cause I lived with him for so many years."

For those who need a refresher: Sukarno led the Indonesian independence movement in the late 1940s, and then seized total power. Adams would help him write his autobiography. "I wasn't helping him, I was writing it!" she laughed. "It was the 'as told to me' autobiography."

Rocca asked, "Did he ever make a pass at you?"

"Oh, well, naturally. I would expect it!" she laughed.

"How do you turn down a dictator?"

"Oh, you say: 'Oh, honey, take it easy, will ya', for Pete's sake? I'm not the type. Right now I need to get a story.'"

Rocca asked Adams about Joey Adams' 80th birthday party, noting, "That was a famous event, an infamous event!"

"'If you're indicted, you're invited,'" she said.

The guest list included crime family boss John Gotti, "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsely, and a certain noted shoe collector. "Imelda Marcos was my friend," said Adams. "When she was on trial, I was with her every single day. She couldn't remember where she put $800 million."

"It happens," Rocca said.

"Yeah. that's what I said."

Joey Adams died in 1999 (he and Cindy never had children), and a friend gave Cindy a Yorkshire terrier, Jazzy, who became the love of her life.

Today, Juicy is the new Jazzy. 

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Mo Rocca with Cindy Adams and her dog, Juicy.

CBS News

And every December 9, Juicy takes part in a ceremony that Adams started at Park Avenue's Christ Church: The Blessing of the Animals.

"We've had llamas, we've had goats, we've had pigs, we've had chickens, we've had horses outside," Adams said. "You have a dog?"

"I don't," Rocca admitted.

"How can you not have a dog?"

"Because I travel too much."

"I travel also. I also have a dog."

"Well, you've got a staff!"

"You can't have staff? CBS is paying you so little?"

Cindy also has human friends, including Judith Sheindlin, known to millions as Judge Judy. They met 22 years ago, and both sat down with Rocca at Fresco by Scotto, a favorite restaurant of Cindy's. 

"We play gin – we can play gin for a whole day," said Sheindlin. "We have played gin on a plane for 14 straight hours!"

Judge Judy readily testifies to her friend's character: "Her love of America is very serious. Her love of New York City is very serious. Her love of animals is very serious. Her loyalty to friends is very serious. Other than that, she will pee on anybody!"

At this point in Cindy Adams' bold-faced life, the only ring on her finger is the one she received from former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"And my name's on it!" she exclaimed. "If you see my name on the side, because if your name's not on it, it's not legit. This way they know if you try to hock it or sell it."

Rocca asked Judge Judy, "Did you ever encourage her to date again?"

"You know, that's an interesting question. Men who are in their 60s want somebody who is 19," Judy replied.

Cindy was more blunt: "What are they gonna do for me?"

"There is Rudy Giuliani. He's single!" said Rocca.

Laughing Adams, exclaimed, "What are we doing here?" 

Judge Judy brought the gavel down on Rocca: "You had enough to drink. That's enough!"

Cindy Adams had the last word: "Get away from us! Get out of here, will you go away!"

       
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Story produced by Jay Kernis.