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Kathy Griffin dishes on celebs — of all kinds — in new book

Kathy Griffin dishes the dirt on celebrities — favorites, and some not so much — in her new book. | Santiago Covarrubias / Sun-Times

Spending time with comedian, actress, author and Grammy winner Kathy Griffin is like being in the midst of a verbal hurricane of wonderful zingers.

When the Oak Park native is on, the only speed at which she sets her mind (and mouth) is lightning fast.

Stopping in Chicago en route from New York back to her home in Los Angeles, the entertainer shared stories from her new book “Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index,” which goes on sale Tuesday.

Griffin describes the book as “an index. You can pick and choose and select certain entries — or you can read it beginning to end. If you do read it beginning to end, you’ll find it’s really a book about relationships.”

Here’s a sampling of what Griffin had to say in a never-boring interview:

• Speaking of relationships, she reflected on her years of running into Gwyneth Paltrow. “When it comes to Paltrow, I think about it based on the advice I got from my dear, departed friend Joan Rivers and my still good friend Don Rickles about how established stars react to people like me they think are really on the ‘D list.’

“But now it’s finally happening. At 56, a lot of these stiffs who have hated me for so long now will, at least, acknowledge my existence. Paltrow is one of them. Every time I’ve seen her, I’ve tried. I’ve done things like giving her an autographed 8-by-10 photo of myself to try to make her laugh. No luck. But about a year ago, I went up to her at a party and said, ‘Paltrow, your night’s made now that I’m here, right?’ And she said, ‘It kind of is!’

“So the Paltrow story in the book is about years of trying get her to accept me. It’s not like she’s now in love with me, but she finally realizes, ‘OK, I get it. This bitch hasn’t quit after all these years. She’s not going anywhere.'”

• Griffin’s tale about President-elect Donald Trump dates back a few years. “I can tell Trump hair jokes like any comic, but the fact I’ve met him several times over the years is different. I’ll never forget one specific day I spent with The Donald at one of his stupid golf courses that none of his supporters could afford to play at. I spent the day with him and Liza Minnelli, and it was a challenge. It was so insane. Here was Donald driving the golf cart and me and Liza in the back — and she kept getting the spins, but, of course, he didn’t pay any attention.

“I’m probably one of the very few people in the world who can say I spent the day with The Donald and The Liza. Back then, he was driving the golf cart. Now, he’s driving the country. I should have stopped him then.”

• “People wouldn’t think that I’m friends with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but I am. It just happened because — as is always the case with me and celebrities — I seek people out. I’m a little bold about it. I don’t know a lot about sports, but I really admire greatness. I have a love of people who are champions and unique. I’m so loud and obnoxious, but surprisingly I’m very intrigued by introverts — and Kareem is extremely introverted.

“I’m very proud that we became friends because, after 23 TV specials — where I wrote every word — I wrote a joke for Kareem that he delivered at the Democratic National Convention, and it got a round of applause. I had never written a joke for another human being in my entire life.”

The joke Abdul-Jabbar delivered, to great acclaim, was: “I’m Michael Jordan, and I’m with her,” referring to his support of Hillary Clinton and also tweaking the way even famous African-Americans are often confused for other famous African-Americans.

• “It’s weird that I’m friends with Cher,” Griffin says. “Of course, let’s face it, we’re two gay guys in women’s bodies. But what I like about her — and she’s obviously very eccentric — is the fact she’s very genuine. But she has to be careful. If Trump is reading her [tweets] lately, he’s going to send her to a gulag somewhere. She’s going to be in Gitmo with me. Remember, [‘The Apprentice’ contestant and Trump supporter] Omarosa is making a list!”

• Griffin has built a career of sayings she’s a permanent fixture on the “D-list” — though it’s clear she’s long since made it to the “A-list.” Yet the entertainer had an interesting analysis of how and why stars move up and down in the fame game. “I’ve learned a couple of things. There’s nothing more insufferable than the newly famous. They are the worst. The first three years, you just have to write them off. Then, when it finally hits them that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, they sometimes finally turn human. My first encounter with Christina Aguilera was so ridiculous it wasn’t funny. She was as arrogant as could be — just so snooty.

“But now it’s just crazy. It’s not she’s suddenly become my best friend, but she will come up to me and give me a kiss on the cheek and ask me how I’m doing. A big difference from those old days when she’d take one look at me and go, ‘Ugh!’ and turn away.”

• Woody Allen gets the first story in Griffin’s book. They were seated together at a dinner. Among other things, the actress was surprised that he seemed unaware of major projects done by some top actors. “Like Liev Schreiber, for example. I asked him if he liked ‘Ray Donovan.’ He’d never watched it. The same thing for Kevin Spacey. He’d never watched one episode of ‘House of Cards.’

“As a joke, I told Woody, ‘I guess the reason you wanted to sit next to me was to hear all the Miley [Cyrus] gossip. ‘I’ve never missed an episode of “Hannah Montana,” said Woody. I was in shock. I understood when, two months later, he cast her in that new Amazon series [‘Crisis in Six Scenes.”

• Griffin considers Megan Mullally one of her “real friends.” Not only do they share years of having auditioned for TV and film projects in Hollywood, “but she’s someone who will come over to my house without makeup. When she did that, I realized we were real friends.”

• As for her unlikely pairing with Anderson Cooper for CNN’s annual New Year’s Eve telecast — this year will be the 10th time for the duo — Griffin says she was aware of him “even before he did [the reality TV show] ‘The Mole,’ which, of course, he refuses to discuss. That’s why I love to subject him to what I call emotional waterboarding — always bringing up ‘The Mole’ and his catalog modeling days.”

Turning serious for only a moment, she says, “We just clicked from when we first met. It’s one of those magical, crazy things. But it works.”

• As she talked about running into Michael Keaton at Clive Davis’ famous annual pre-Grammy party last year, Griffin revealed one of the ways she gets really famous stars to pose for a photo for her.

“So often people like that are very shy about doing photographs that aren’t on a red carpet or whatever. So my trick is to figure out a way to put some legends together. For example, at Clive’s party, I spotted Jane Fonda and Alice Cooper standing near Michael and said, ‘Let me get a picture of you three. They always go for that. Then, as I’m fumbling with my phone — suddenly, I go, ‘Gee! How did I get in that shot?’ “