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Sarah Jessica Parker talks about "Sex and the City," Carrie Bradshaw and her upcoming trip to Richmond.

Sarah and Our City

Carrie Bradshaw, the sex columnist heroine of HBO's "Sex and the City," always seems to write her columns while lounging on her bed, wearing pajamas and smoking cigarettes. And she seems to write only one sentence per episode — "Are all men freaks?" "Have New Yorkers evolved past relationships?" — yet earns enough money to live in a stylish Greenwich Village apartment and afford fabulous designer clothes.

But I'm not jealous — au contraire — I'm addicted.

I was an avowed anti-HBO freak until I started reading rave reviews of the Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated "Sex" in nearly every publication I picked up. I was also a longtime fan of the series' star, Sarah Jessica Parker, so when my cable company offered me three months of free HBO this summer, I couldn't resist. And you can bet I'm paying for HBO now, solely to feed my addiction for "Sex and the City," whose four female characters frankly explore the sometimes gritty — and often hilarious — realities of sex and relationships in the Big Apple.

Parker may be the "It Girl" of the moment, but she is hardly a flavor of the month. Her acting career spans more than 20 years and includes stints on stage, on film and on television — everything from starring in "Annie" on Broadway at age 12, to her film breakthrough as SanDeE* opposite Steve Martin in "L.A. Story" in 1992, to a recent Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway production of "Once Upon a Mattress."

Yet despite spending most of her life in the spotlight, Parker is refreshingly devoid of the trappings of celebrity — the bodyguards, handlers and most importantly, the attitude. And on Saturday, Dec. 4, Parker will use her celebrity for a good cause as she heads to Richmond for a series of events to benefit LINC, the Legal Information Network for Cancer, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Parker's mother's best friend, Richmond lawyer Phyllis Katz. Parker will be the star attraction at a fashion show at Hecht's and a benefit blowout at Tredegar Ironworks. Organizers are hoping the events will raise $100,000 for LINC. (see sidebar)

Parker recently spoke to Style about "Sex and the City," her upcoming trip to Richmond, and what it's like to play sexpert Carrie Bradshaw.

Style: Carrie Bradshaw lives in a fabulous apartment in the Village, wears incredible clothes, carries $2,000 Fendi handbags, and her sole source of income seems to come from writing one sentence each week. How does she do it?

Sarah Jessica Parker:
The truth of the matter is that she's lived in that apartment forever, since she was an adult in New York City. It is actually a pretty small apartment ... your basic, classic one bedroom. When we first went into production I said, 'We have to make it smaller.' If you saw it for real, it is not as spacious as it looks on TV.

... And actually, she writes more than a sentence — each show is a column. The setup is the question: 'Is being in love with your best friend really cheating on your boyfriend?' Everything you see after that is the column.

And she overspends — she handles her money very poorly, she has absolutely no extra money. She would rather spend $400 on a pair of shoes and have people buy her dinner. ... We take a little bit of a bit of a leap and a little bit of dramatic license, but I know a lot of women who live beyond their means ....

I think the real thing that makes it completely unbelievable is the Fendi bags this year, I think I have a different one in every scene, but we couldn't resist.

Style: The clothing on "Sex" is so important. Do you dress like Carrie in real life?

...We start working on the clothing so early into production that by the time the season is over, it seeps into you. I'm a far less daring dresser in that I have less of a trashy side, but I love wearing those clothes, and I think, as you said, that they are as important a character in the show as any of the women, as is the city of New York. ...

Funnily enough, I think my clothing on the show gives people the impression that I take my clothes off on the show. In fact, I have never taken off my clothes in my career, I have never taken my top off on the show — I leave that to the other girls.

Style: You got an early start, playing Annie on Broadway at age 12. You seem to be one of the few child stars who turned out OK. How did you survive success at such a young age?

My family, definitely, and not being allowed to misbehave. It just wouldn't be tolerated. ... I never thought that I was a child star, I was never that successful. ... It-was very healthy at home; I think. I wasn't made to feel like that was all I had to offer.

Style: Now at age 36, you're at the peak of your celebrity. Yet, you don't seem like a celebrity in the traditional sense. One thing people like about you is that you seem so normal. How do you keep it real?

I don't either [think of myself as a celebrity] — nor does anybody who knows me.

Matthew [Broderick, her husband] and I have pretty much led the same life we have always lived. I have always lived in New York, it has always been my home. I walk around, take the subway ... it would look silly to pretend that I couldn't do that any longer. Nothing's changed, the only difference is people stop me and talk to me more. It is just really more of the same — it's a more concentrated kind of attention.

Style: Yet, at the same time, Phyllis Katz has convinced you to spend a weekend in Richmond using your celebrity image for the benefit of her organization, LINC. How did she talk you into it?

She just had to ask. ... I sort of wish we had been able to do it sooner because LINC is down to their last $7. I don't know if I'm up to the job, this is a very important moment for them , they really need to raise a lot of money.

Phyllis is as close to my mother as anybody in my life. We spend all of our holidays with her, family vacations — she's a family member and like any family member, you just do it. You don't think about it. It is such a wonderful, smart, thoughtful, important organization.

Style: Have you visited Richmond before?

We come here all the time. We've spent Thanksgiving here, my sister went to VCU. ... Phyllis has lived in Richmond for more than 20 years now, and we have been coming there ever since she lived there.

Style: What do you think it is about the show that has touched a nerve with not only women, but men, too?

I don't know ... it's a fresh voice. What people tell me is that they just feel like, 'Ohmigod, that's my life.' Sometimes its scary [to hear that], sometimes its not — there is so much that can be hopeful about being single. ... It is just resonant with people because it feels real to them. I am always surprised when I travel that people outside of places that are considered urban metropolises still respond to it.

Style: "Sex" is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of what it shows and talks about. Do you think it has ever gone over the top? Where do you draw the line?

There are a lot of things in the show that I just don't do. It's not a moral judgment, it's not that I am a superior person ... I don't like to use bad language. I think I used the 'F-word' twice last season, and it was specifically chosen and discussed. I feel like [Carrie's] a writer and should be careful with her words. I am not interested in any showing of flesh ....

There were a couple of occasions when I [have] felt, 'Gee, I wish we wouldn't have done that.' ... I can think of a couple of occasions where I think we would have been smarter not to have done something ... the really hard part of the show is maintaining the standards given the extraordinary boundaries.

Style: Do people get you confused with Carrie Bradshaw? Are the two of you more different or alike?

Oh yeah — not confused with who I am, but they have now substituted my personality and tolerance level for intimate talk. They feel compelled to tell me intimate details about their lives.

I am very different, but I like her, and there's a lot to relate to in her personality.

... Her life is so different than mine — I never loved that life. But I like her so much and I love playing her.

You can spend a day in Carrie Bradshaw's fabulous world by winning a day on the set of "Sex and the City," as well as roundtrip airfare for two on USAir and a two-night stay at the Millennium Broadway. Raffle tickets are $10 and are available at Hecht's Regency Square South building, Saxon Shoes, both Cocoanut Jewelery locations and Need Supply Co. The winner will be drawn Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Tredegar Ironworks event.

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