by Donna Freydkin)
Chelsea Handler and margaritas go together like Thomas Keller and haute cuisine.
It's her libation of choice in the midst of an interview on this icy Friday afternoon, at the Four Seasons. And it's her go-to cocktail when she heads out of town with her closest friends.
"The way that me and my girlfriends behave are not like any other women I have been around. I have a ton of female friends. We behave like men. We drink like men. We swear like men," she announces.
She proves her point in her latest tome, the travelogue Uganda Be Kidding Me (Grand Central Publishing, $27), which details Handler's travails – er, luxurious treks – to the Bahamas, Africa and Germany. As always, she embarks on her adventures accompanied by a coterie of pals, and armed with ready cash to book the most luxurious escapes possible.
"I love to travel, to bounce around the world. I like to go on trips. I like to pick up and go. The fact that I can afford to do that is the best gift. The fact that I can bring my friends and family makes me really happy. I just got back from Barcelona. I went skiing in the Pyrenees. I was in the Bahamas for Christmas. I'm such an American. For me, to go into these places, it's a culture shock for them and for me," she says.
She's not kidding.
Handler, 39, doesn't rough it.
"I don't like to camp. I'm a girl from New Jersey who grew up middle class, and now I have access to everything on the planet and I make sure I get to everything on the planet. I use it. I want to stay at the nicest hotels. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm not low-key. I want room service, I want beautiful food, and a massage, wherever I am," she says.
She's equally open about her life in Los Angeles, where she's been hosting E!'s Chelsea Lately since July 2007 as the only woman in late-night. On her show, she's gabbed about pubic hair with Gwyneth Paltrow and shot a naked shower skit with Sandra Bullock. Many members of Hollywood's A-list are her friends in real life.
"Me having a home in LA – I have so many friends around. It's as adult as I'll ever be. I have a ridiculously beautiful house. I come home and I have people doing things for me and I have a beautiful backyard and I come home and think, 'Holy (expletive). This is really cool. You'd better enjoy it,'" she says. "I'm the fresh princess of Bel Air."
And while Handler says she loves her job, she's not sure how much longer she wants to do it. Her contract, she says, is up at the end of the 2014 and "I don't know if I want to be talking about Justin Bieber when I'm 40." Handler says she never plans anything professionally, opting to let things "just kind of happen."
But she's not sanguine about holding down the fort as the only woman headlining a late-night talk show. "If I step away from that, what am I saying? Without another woman there to take my place, or take a place," she muses. "I don't want to leave women in the dust and forget about that. I don't want to be on a regular network. If I do a show, I want to get away with what I get away with. I use language because that's how I am in real life.'"
Sometimes that candor can backfire in a big way. When Handler took over the Huffington Post's Twitter feed during the Oscars, she got into hot water for posting that "#AngelinaJolie just filed adoption papers "Lupitanyongo" and "Congratulations #12yearsaslave Go to Africa or buy #ugandabekiddingme."
She defended herself on Good Morning America on Tuesday, explaining that "people are mad at me all the time. If I was worried about that, then I would be spending a lot of time online. I'd rather be a little bit more productive." Plus, added Handler, she's not racist: "I date a lot of black people, so that would be a difficult thing to explain to them."
Now that she has five book titles to her name – Uganda Be Kidding Me, My Horizontal Life, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me – does Handler have plans for a sixth one?
"I'm not even thinking about another book right now," she says.