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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 01/31/2012

Ali Wentworth on growing up in D.C., her social secretary mom, and the wrong way to deliver a thank you gift to Donald Rumsfeld


Ali Wentworth with husband George Stephanopoulos in New York City last year. (Stephen Lovekin)

Yes, comedian Ali Wentworth is turning into her mother.

“She’s not as out there as I am,” Wentworth told us about her mom, Muffie Brandon Cabot, Washington hostess, former White House social secretary and font of pithy one-liners. “But I definitely have her values and morals, even though I talk a funny game.”

Mom was the inspiration for Wentworth’s new comic memoir, “Ali in Wonderland.” The prospect of the book had Cabot, 76, deeply nervous, but no worries: “I’m not writing a tell-all book in any way. I said to my mother, ‘It’s a real love letter to you.’ ”


Ali Wentworth in an episode of “Seinfeld,” 1997. (Getty Images)
Wentworth, 47, grew up in D.C.’s upper crust: Her mother worked for Nancy Reagan; her stepfather, Henry Brandon, was chief diplomatic correspondent for London’s Sunday Times. Henry Kissinger hung out in their swimming pool.

She rebelled — by becoming an actress, with stints on “In Living Color“ and as Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend on the “Soup Nazi” episode. Her book recounts bumps along the way — we’ll call them rich-girl problems — solved by therapy and stays at the Four Seasons.

Love brought her back to Washington when she married George Stephanopoulos in 2001. No juicy gossip about him, either: “I’m madly in love with him. I can’t believe my luck.”


The cover of "Ali in Wonderland." (Harper)
Raising two young daughters here, Wentworth found she didn’t like D.C. much better than when she was a kid. “When George and I would go out, I felt like I had nothing to offer. My insights on fiscal responsibility — I mean, who cares? But what I started to realize is that people find it a great relief not to talk about this stuff.”

Like Donald Rumsfeld, for example, who was tickled to show off his prized dachshunds to her at a Christmas party. Like a good social secretary’s daughter, Wentworth decided to give him a book about the breed as a thank-you — which, she recounts in the memoir, she tossed over the gate of his home. Armed guards surrounded her immediately; the book was hauled off for inspection. Naive? Sure, but “at least he received a handwritten note and a thoughtful and personal gift the next day.”

The family’s now living in New York, for her husband’s anchor gig on “Good Morning America.” She’s doing a little acting, with a new webcast launching on Yahoo Wednesday. She also emceed a White House event for Michelle Obama last year. Hmm, could we be talking to a future White House social secretary?

“I remember how stressed out my mother was,” she said. “I don’t think I could handle it. I would make a hundred mistakes a day. ”

By  |  05:00 AM ET, 01/31/2012

 
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