Profile

SAMANTHA THE SEXPERT

Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall has reinvented herself as a writer on eroticism, but says her own sexual awakening occurred rather late in life

JOHN INTINI October 3 2005
Profile

SAMANTHA THE SEXPERT

Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall has reinvented herself as a writer on eroticism, but says her own sexual awakening occurred rather late in life

JOHN INTINI October 3 2005

SAMANTHA THE SEXPERT

Profile

JOHN INTINI

Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall has reinvented herself as a writer on eroticism, but says her own sexual awakening occurred rather late in life

‘I GREW up on Vancouver Island in Lee Rider jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts and have always felt comfortable like that’

HAVING ESCAPED AN UGLY September day in New York City, Kim Cattrall settles into the Four Seasons’ bar for a late-aftemoon tea. Earl Grey. Decaf. She’s here to talk about sex— specifically her new book, Sexual Intelligence— but during the next hour seven hyperattentive staffers interrupt.

“Is the water hot enough?”

“Is the room too cold?”

“Is it quiet enough?”

With a warm smile, Cattrall thanks each one without complaint—including a manager who hovers for about a minute without ever saying a word, like a nervous fan who is too star-struck to ask for an autograph.

Unlike Samantha Jones, the ultra-stylish Sex and the City nympho who made her famous, Cattrall speaks in a slow, hushed whisper. Her voice is soothing, but not especially sexy. Confident, not cocky. And she dresses more casually than you might expect.

Today, she’s wearing cotton capris, a paisley-printed shirt and simple flats. No makeup. No jewellery (not even a watch). Her blond hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail. “I’m very low maintenance,” says Cattrall. “I grew up on Vancouver Island in Lee Rider jeans, tie-dyed Tshirts and running shoes and have always felt comfortable like that.”

But don’t think—not even for a New York minute—that Samantha Jones is dead. The show’s over, but the 49-year-old actress, who proved that cougars can be cool, isn’t letting her TV persona fade to black just yet. In fact, she’s building a mini-empire around Samantha’s favourite pastime, and repo-

sitioning herself as a real-life sexspert.

This transformation began in 2002, when Cattrall co-authored Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm, with then-husband Mark Levinson (turns out great sex wasn’t enough). And now, this month, she’s set to release a heavily illustrated tour of erotic expression, Sexual Intelligence (the accompanying documentary, made by Cattrall’s production company, airs Nov. 20 on the Discovery Channel). “Samantha gave me this platform,” she says. “Why would I distance myself from something that’s life-enforcing and one of the purest self-expressions?” Not being a trained pro would stop most people. But Cattrall believes the fact she’s searching for answers, like everyone else, is a strength. “I’m not a sex therapist,” says Cattrail. “I’m just in a good position to ask questions. In my book are the educators who’ve dedicated their lives to studying sexuality.” Not surprisingly, when challenged with the notion that she’s cashing in on her notoriety by writing about sex, she gets defensive. “This book took 2V2 years,” counters Cattrall. “Trust me, there are a lot less time-consuming and more lucrative ways of cashing in on my persona.” Good thing she’s drinking decaf.

“I’VE ALWAYS been very partial to Johnson.” Cattrall is responding to a question about her favourite slang for penis. “One of my earliest boyfriends called it his Johnson. I didn’t know why it was called that. Neither did he. I just always thought it was fun.” In addition to a discussion of genital slang, her

very frank, 144-page book is filled with short bits on such topics as fantasies, desire and fetishism. In the documentary, Cattrall traipses around Europe in a trench coat (posing, one can only assume, as some kind of sex detective), cuddling up to ancient art phalluses. “There is a place missing between pornography and the clinical and psycho-

logical examination of sexuality,” says Cattrall. “It was amazing stepping back in time and seeing how sexuality was so much a part of everyday life—artwork depicting men with large penises that represented something joyous. And amazing, strong, female icons. Sexuality was celebrated in a way that in my lifetime has never been a reality.”

But the small-screen star doesn’t consider herself an educator, just a pathfinder. And she hopes her books resonate with young women in particular. Satisfaction certainly resonated with Britney Spears, who recently credited Cattrall with improving her oral-sex skills. When hearing about this, the actress/author glances up from her teacup,

looking confused. “My book has nothing about teaching oral sex,” says Cattrall, who coincidentally played Spears’ mother in the pop star’s 2002 film debut, Crossroads. “It’s all about communication.”

Cattrall says it’s taken her a long time to feel good about sex. She didn’t date very much in high school, and for years felt alienated from her erotic self. “I had closed that shop,” she says, “and come to terms with it.” Then she met Levinson, her third husband, in 1998 (coincidentally, that was her first season as Samantha). He helped her discover a sexual freedom she hadn’t previously enjoyed. “I wrote Satisfaction to define myself outside of who everyone thought I was—that being, Samantha,” says Cattrall. “A lot of people thought that I had a great sex life. I didn’t. And I wanted women to think, ‘If she can stand up and say it, so can I.’ ” These days, Cattrall gets a laugh out of all the recent academic research devoted to the evolutionary use of the female orgasm. “When was pleasure low on the list of what you wanted in life?” says Cattrall. “I don’t consider myself a hedonist, buta pleasurable experience is high on mine.”

When Cattrall talks about her own dating exploits, Samantha switches back on—albeit briefly. She leans in, clasps her hands together and rests her elbows on the table. Her voice shifts from soft to sultry. “I like Canadian men,” she says, making no effort to hide a mischievous grin. Cattrall recently dated 27-year-old Toronto chef Alan Wyse (who bears a passing resemblance to Jason Lewis, the model/actor who played Smith Jerrod, Samantha’s TV boyfriend on Sex and the City). She won’t confirm if they’re still together, saying only that she isn’t taking anything too seriously right now and doesn’t expect to get married again.

A great deal is made of Cattrall’s penchant for younger men, and yet, as a rising film star in the early ’80s, she fell for Pierre Trudeau. Cattrall, then 37 years his junior, met the

prime minister at the premiere of her film, Tribute, in 1980. “We both shared the attitude of‘Why not?’,” says Cattrall, who attended the Genie Awards with Trudeau the following year. “I was instantly attracted to his mind. He was a real statesman. He was our Kennedy.”

Although she was born in Liverpool, England, and has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Cattrall still refers to Canada with a sense of ownership. Part of that has to do with Fertile Ground, the Toronto-based production company she set up in 2002. Cattrall, whose main residence

is a midtown Manhattan apartment, says she’s pretty much done with the New York party circuit—preferring the quiet of her Long Island beach house. “It’s very laid back,” she says.

“When I was doing the show, it was important to be part of the scene. Now.

I just want to slow down.

So why didn’t she leave New York when the show wrapped up last year? Perhaps move back to the Vancouver area, where most of her family still lives? “New York was my first home away from home,” says Cattrall, who arrived in the Big Apple as a 16-year-old student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. “It’s where I had my first bank account, my first job, my first agent. I love this place.”

A passion for art and theatre is also what keeps her here. On the day of our interview, she had spent most of the afternoon in the West Village, doing a read-through of a friend’s play. Earlier this year, she lived in London, where she earned rave reviews for her portrayal of the quadriplegic Claire Harrison in the West End revival of Brian Clark’s Whose Life Is It Anyway. Each night during the play’s four-month run, Cattrall lay flat on her back in a hospital bed, playing a character unable to move anything but her head. A very different between-the-sheets experience from Samantha’s.

Like most celebrities, Cattrall says she never watches TV. In fact, she doesn’t own one. She reads a lot. Lately, she’s been devouring books for and about young women—

research for her next book, Everything I Learned About Being A Girl, which is aimed at teen girls and is due out next year. “I’m not going to have children, unless I become a science experiment,” says Cattrall. “So I’m finding different ways of being a mom in the world. My books are a big part of that.” So will Cattrall ever pen a tell-all? “Maybe,” she says. “Believe me, when I go to book

fairs, they’re chomping for it. But I’m not ready to write my life story. I have a lot of living left to do.” And what about resurrecting the possibility of a Sex and the City reunion movie (the rumour was that Cattrall’s salary demands were one of the reasons the idea was turfed last year)? “I’d hate to do something that would disappoint,” says Cattrall, adding that there was never a script or a firm start date. “It would have to be a terrific script. And everybody would have to be paid well—not just some people. We worked our asses off for about seven years, and it was time for everybody to share.”

Refreshingly, Cattrall doesn’t sugar-coat the fact that she and the rest of the cast— whom she has rarely seen since the series wrapped up—were never tight. “Everyone wanted us to be best friends,” she says. “People forget we were paid to be best friends.”

Samantha had a similar frankness, which is what endeared so many to the character. Now that the HBO series is being aired in syndication on regular cable, a new group of fans are approaching Cattrall on a daily basis—speaking to her as if they know her. “I hope it continues,” she says. “Samantha was a spirit of this time. She taught me that women can have all the power.” And, oddly enough, Samantha also sparked a publishing career. lifl