It's a riveting story. You seem to be a risk-taker and adrenaline junkie.
Charlotte: I'm not really. I'm pretty cautious and normally don't do things that could land me in trouble. For example, I've never had a glass of alcohol or tried illegal drugs, including pot. I've never wanted to risk addiction or being out of control.
It's true I've gate crashed political fundraisers and award shows, and there's definitely some adrenaline in that, especially when security is tough or it's the Secret Service. But hey, what's the worst that could happen? They're not going to throw a party crasher in prison. With the pigeon caper, public sentiment would have been with us if we'd been caught so I figured the risk was minimal.
You clearly have compassion for victims: human and animal.
Charlotte: Yes. I'm against all forms of prejudice, including speciesism. Since childhood, I've had the urge to fight for those who oppressed, silenced, marginalized, and forgotten. Maybe back then it had something to do with feeling like an outcast myself. I didn't fit into the wealthy, debutante society of Atlanta where I was raised. Plus, I had a bleak home life. My adoptive mother committed suicide, my adopted brother was killed in a car wreck at 16, and my adoptive dad was verbally abusive. I felt trapped. I felt invisible. I wanted to escape.
Your childhood tragedies are heartbreaking. What does your adoptive dad think about you baring all in your memoir?
Charlotte: I doubt he'll ever pick up the book. He's 93 years old and has never read any of my books, including my first one over 30 years ago. This memoir details how I tracked down my birth family. This is a topic he has no interest in. He's told me all my life that the adoption records were destroyed and that I could never meet my genetic family. He doesn't want to know about it. He's good at evading that which he wants to evade. He lives in his own bubble.
If he hasn't read your book, does he know about your adventures, such as working at a strip club?
Charlotte: I'm starting to think you're obsessed with strip clubs! (laughter) To answer your question: no.
I'm not obsessed with strip clubs. I promise. But there is a paradox I'd like to explore. You're known as a feminist and are even listed by Buzzfeed as one of "the 30 most badass women in the world," so do you think it was wrong for you to work at a place that demeans women?
Charlotte: No. There are male strippers as well. Ever heard of Chippendales? Some people, both male and female, choose to be in the sex industry (or even in the beauty-pageant world, which gets the same criticism). And many of these people actually like the work. They don't view it as demeaning. I know a prostitute who is empowered by her job. Many people, however, condemn her. They lecture her about being complicit in a misogynistic profession, but she doesn't see it this way. They take away some of her joy, as she puts it.