1st April 2001
Eddie Izzard saunters towards me looking macho. Yes, macho. At the very least I had expected a mattering of eyeliner, a hint of mascara and a touch of lip gloss from Britains most famous transvestite.
Instead I am faced with a man, who, quite simply, screams sex appeal.
He is dressed in a plain black T-shirt and jeans. His trendy black shoes show no sign of a high heel and his angular features are very male indeed. He is even sporting a copper-coloured goatee beard.
I fix him with my steadiest gaze as I reach over to shake his hand (yes, that grip is very masculine indeed)
We meet for lunch at the exclusive Chateau Marmont Hotel, which towers over Sunset Boulevard in Los Angles. Eddie chooses a shady spot under a parasol and lights up the first of many cigarettes. He smokes like a man too.
At first he seems serious, almost shy, but it isnt long before he has me howling with laughter as he launches into his trademark rapid-fire observations on life as a straight transvestite.
Im in blokey mode at the moment, he announces. Im quite comfortable as a man and equally at home as a woman. Having said that, I will admit that I have always suffered from breast envy. I thought about changing sex and then thought I would just look like a man who had changed sex, soI didnt have implants.
If I had been born a woman I would have been happy, but I wasnt, and now I see myself as a male tomboy. I seem to have the gift of being given chromosomes that are saying we are neither XX or XY, but something like XP. Maybe there are some Z chromosomes in there as well.
This is the kind of quick-fire, lateral-thinking delivery we have come to expect from our favourite cross-dressing comedian. And theres plenty more where that came from.
I am a male lesbian but the butch part of me still wants to drive fast cars and leap out of aeroplanes in a parachute. When I was a kid, although I enjoyed dressing up, I also wanted to join the army. Part of me just wants to run around and climb trees and things.
Once I have stopped laughing, I want to know if Eddie is actually happy being this bloke who sees himself as part femme-fatale, part action hero.
I dont know the answer to that he muses. I kind of had to invent a place where I m happy. This action-transvestite place. This is a place which exists and youd better get used to it because in the future there will be way more guys wearing make-up
Eddie, 39, is in LA because he has just finished filming two movies he hopes will mark him out as an actor as well as a comedian.
Hes riding high following his success at the American Emmys last year for his TV show Dress to Kill, and he is full of news of his latest role as Artistic Director of Amnesty International, a baton he is clearly proud tohave been handed by John Cleese.
He switches suddenly into serious mode as he talks at full throttle about the importance of Amnesty and his anger at human rights violations committed across the world.
Eddie, an ardent Labour supporter and avid pro-European, says, I have to be serious about this. I cant talk crap. Its a major job for me
He will be fronting a top live event entitled We Know Where You Live at Wembley Arena on June 3rd to celebrate 40 years of Amnestys achievements. Its the successor to the famous Secret Policemans Ball, and Eddie is hoping to recruit a star-studded cast.
He says, I pushed for renaming it. We Know Where You Live is a phrase used by gangsters against ordinary people. This is ordinary people using the phrase against gangsters. We know where they are at exactly the right time to do something about it.
With the political stuff out of the way for now I endeavour to get to know Eddie better. He was born in Yemen in 1962. His father John was then an accountant for petroleum giant BP and his mother Dorothy was a midwife. Tragically his mother died of cancer when Eddie was six an event he believes led him to crave the public affection he now enjoys. His father later married his stepmother Kate.
Soon after his mothers death, Eddie was sent to boarding school and set about becoming the class clown. He like wearing frocks from the age of four but kept his passion to himself. At 15 he was caught stealing lipstick but lied and said it was for a girl.
At 21 he came out to an ex-girlfriend but waited until he was 29 to tell his father who barely batted an eyelid. A 30 he performed his fist gig in a dress.
These days Eddie is entirely at ease with himself. He divides his time between his home in Londons Notting Hill and Los Angeles, where he is seen as King of the Cross-dressers.
He is fiercely protective of his private life and on the subject of his private life on and on the subject of his long-term girlfriend, he is infuriatingly vague.
I dont like talking about her, he says, She is a human being. She is a member of this planet. She is mercurial.
How long has he been seeing her? A while Do they live together? Sort of, kind of. In England? I dunno, maybe.
How often do they see each other? Im not sure. Is she in showbusiness? I cant say Will they marry? Im not really into marriage. Maybe one day we will go public and end up as another showbiz relationship to be shot down in flames he adds caustically.
I dont talk about her and everyone thinks she doesnt exist or she is a front for me being gay. There will be a point when we talk about this. I cant go there now, he says pleadingly.
Then there is the question of Eddie and children.
His super-quick response restores our previous humour. I would be the perfect one-person family he announces. I couldnt give birth, but I could give make-ups tips and football tips.
Having children is in my mind as something I would like to do at some point in the future. The male part of my psyche tells me Ive got a bit of time. Otherwise, I could adopt.
Having children is the genetic continuation of the human species which on the whole I think should be saved he adds, once more diverting attention from himself.
I am desperate to know what kind of woman he fancies. Not just for my own reasons, of course. His legions of female admirers want to know too.
He takes a manly drag (no pun intended) of his cigarette and a long sip of coffee. I fancy a lot of women but I have to admit I am a breast man he whispers.
I love vampy, vavoomy women he says. I like curves as opposed to that strange needle shape.
I suppress a sudden urge to hug him close to my own curvy self as he continues I dont have a preference over hair colour but I do like blondes. Damn. Then again brunettes are nice and sometimes you look at redheads and you think thats nice.
OK, the odds are looking better.
Eddie will be 40 next February, an age at which most people take a long, hard look at their lives. Or have a mid-life crisis.
What kind of mid-life crisis could I possibly have he says, laughing. Im a straight male transvestite so I had my crisis in my twenties. I didnt have a 30 problem and I dont have a 40 problem. Im sorted really.
Telling my dad I was a transvestite was difficult, but hes fine about it. Right now Im content. Turning a certain age is irrelevant to me.
Eddie is adamant that he has never fancied another man, despite confessing to be very open to the idea.
The only times I have ever snogged a guy have been on stage and I thought to myself can I deal with this? I just did it and it was OK.
In his new film, All the Queens Men, due out in the autumn, Eddie plays a bisexual transvestite. My character likes men and women and his ex-wife has a relationship with a guy he had an affair with and it becomes a big, weird ménage-a-trois..
But in real life men are just not for me.
He once boasted that he would do a gig on the moon. Eddie runs his fingers through his copper-streaked cropped hair when I ask him if its still an ambition? I grew up with this you cant do this and you cant do that stuff. When I came to America, people said my work would not translate. It did. When I started out people said I wouldnt make it and I did. You have to keep going.
I still have lots of ambitions. Ive got to do gigs in Spanish, Russian and German.
I ask him why. Because I can he responds. If I do it some other crazy person might do it as well.
I speak French to the standard of a 10 year old. I can ask for a lot of biscuits or a helicopter with jam on. I German I can just ask for a car with jam on. To do stand up I will have o go to school for a month and then do it.
In this business you have to stay on your toes and stay original. I wont do stand up for three years. Ill do films and then Ill do stand up again.
Asked if he is a workaholic, Eddie ponders hard. Im a very lazy person with a huge drive. I would rather do nothing, but I hate myself when Im doing nothing. Im a momentum beast.
If I stop, I just like to stop like an ocean liner. Once it stops you cant get the thing moving. Once its moving you cant stop it and thats me although Id rather just watch telly and sit in bed he adds confusingly.
Im fairly content with how things are going. I want to do good dramatic acting parts. Its quite difficult to get parts when youre this tranvestite straight guy.
Being blokey Im getting to do more straight parts, which is great.
I ask him if he ever tires of touring, if he craves a more settled existence? No way he says emphatically. If youre born in Yemen, move to Northern Ireland and then to Wales and are then sent to all these boarding schools and move around a lot, then you just dont want to settle in the usual way.
I like to have a base to come back to but I think the bases are always going to move.
Eddie makes no secret of the fact that he wants to get to the very top of his profession and has previously gone on record as saying that the British view of ambition is on a par with murdering babies.
He laughs as he recalls the hoo-ha he caused at the time. He says This is part of the reason why I want Britain to become part of a federal Europe. Britain is the size of one state of America.
I have a hugely supportive spirit and if we become part of Europe then so much more is possible. Take the Olympics, for example. America won the most medals but if you put all the European countries together as one, we trounced everyone.
Ambition is frowned upon in Britain. I like to think Im like my dad and mum. They both went to Yemen, which in the fifties was like going to the moon.
The loss of his mother remains a huge driving force in Eddies life and he admits to using audiences as a replacement for her affectionate presence in his life. Thats my analysis of things anyway, he says with sadness. She is a real presence. Shes out there in the ether.
Eddie seems to have fallen in love with America and the feeling is mutual. They believe anythings possible. Thats why I think Britain should join Europe. We are suffering from post-Empire thinking. We were on the winning team after the Second World War but our influence dwindled. America came along thinking theyve got tons of cash lets build loads of planes and become a superpower.
I like to think on a global scale. In England our internet sites are dot.co.uk. Why do we do that? Why arent we dot.com? Why arent we thinking worldwide?
I tentatively ask Eddie why his quintessentially English accent seems to be laced with an American accent these days.
He throws up his hands in horror. No, no, I dont think it is he says. On telly when Im doing stand up I will move through different voices. My voice wanders and moves about a bit, but I will have to check this American twang out immediately. I cant hear it.
In an hilarious attempt to prove his point Eddie suddenly bursts into French. Its all I can do to shut him up and get him back to having a sensible discussion.
Eddie returns to the subject of politics and I ask him how he views New Labour and the trouble in which it currently finds itself.
Last year he was revealed as one of the many celebrities who had given over £5,000 to Labour.
He also accompanied controversial minister Keith Vaz on a pro-European trip from Paris to London, but he denies they are friends. They only met that once.
He says, There may be allegations of sleaze. I dont like it but stuff happens. It I was working for the Conservative Party I would be looking for whatever stuff I could.
I met Keith Vaz during the tour and I met Peter Mandelson before the last election. I am being honest when I say that I dont know any politicians in a friendly way.
He happily admits he has donated £10,000 to the Labour cause and will be glad to give more in the future.
I havent got anything from the money I gave in the past. There are no knighthoods on the way as far as I know.
I remain very positive about the Labour Party. Im a realist and my dream is Europe coming together.
I believe it is important for Europe to be unified. We are at peace at the moment and that is a good thing. There is a strong middle-income group which is good for society because it means there is less extremism.
If there is poverty and enormous wealth and nothing in between it breeds terrorism.
Britain joined the EEC behind everyone else and we should not do that again with the European currency. We need to be there at the beginning when the key decisions are being made.
Thats quite enough serious talk. As we leave the hotel and make our way along Sunset Boulevard I ask him that all-important question is he a Rimmel or a Clinique man?
Apparently he swears by MAC make-up and his favourite nail varnish is Chanel. He shaves his legs because waxing is painful and creams are too messy.
I point out my newly painted toenails and he dismisses the pink nail polish as suspiciously Miss Selfridge.
I laugh and proffer him my cheek in farewell. Instead he plants a smacker on my lips. Well, he did say he liked his women vavoomy.