Wendy Williams had to be reminded several times that The Wendy Williams Show was canceled in the months following her last appearance in February. A new report from Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, detailed what led to the demise of the daytime TV staple — and how Williams’ struggles with addiction and chronic illness took a toll on her and her show.
According to the report, Williams reached out to executives multiple times asking why her show had been canceled, acting as if the conversations were happening for the first time each time she called. Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus told THR they had several conversations with Williams to remind her that the show had ended.
“I said, ‘We haven’t heard from you, and we had to make a decision,’ ” Bernstein said. “We should have made one in November, but we pushed it to January or February, and by then, it was like, ‘Make a decision or lose the time period.’”
After being told her 10 a.m. slot was overtaken by The View‘s Sherri Shephard, William asked if she could take over the 11 o’clock hour. “I said, ‘We’d love to work with you, and there are lots of ways and lots of buyers, but you need to come back, and we need to know that you’re OK,” Bernstein said. “You can’t just call after nine months and say, ‘I’m ready.’”
In a separate interview, Marcus said that Williams was unable to even provide a doctor’s note saying she was healthy enough to go back on the air. “I believe that if there was a piece of paper that said, ‘No problem, she’s all good,’ she wouldn’t hesitate to show it,” Marcus said.
The THR report detailed how staffers texted executives “at least 25” times to ask whether she was sober enough to go on air. Another source told the outlet that staffers would find “bottles [of alcohol] up in the ceiling tiles and other strange places in the office.” The show even had to pull a pre-recorded episode and replace it with a repeat since she seemed too intoxicated on-screen, with producers determining on other shows that she looked “fine enough” to go on air. “Everybody on that staff and crew witnessed all kinds of things,” said one source.
Things took a dark turn when she addressed her staff on Zoom in an attempt to calm the large group of people on her show’s team in September 2021. “She starts rambling about ‘I’m really fine, it’s going to be fine,’ and it’s like, ‘What are you saying?’” one insider said, adding that the talk show host was “starting not to be coherent.”
Lonnie Burstein, another Debmar-Mercury executive, added that the speech lasted nearly three minutes: “It was not pretty,” Burstein said. “People were sort of freaked out. She was saying things like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait, I’ll be back with you really soon,’ but it was obvious to anyone watching that she was not going to be back really soon.”
Williams’ spokesperson Shawn Zanotti sent an email to Holywood Reporter acknowledging Williams’ struggles with addiction and both Grave’s disease and lymphedema. “It has been no secret that Wendy has battled with addiction over the years but at this time Wendy is on the road to recovery and healing herself from her chronic illnesses and her grievances of the past,” Zanotti wrote to the outlet. “What we do know is that Wendy has a history of chronic illness that she has publicly spoken about.”
The lengthy report from Hollywood Reporter comes several weeks after Williams appeared on TMZ Live, where she was seen slurring her words, losing her train of thought, and even raising her foot to the camera to show the effects of her lymphedema. “To this day,” Burstein said, “we don’t know truly what the issue is.”
The report also featured an interview with her new manager William Selby, with whom Williams teased doing a podcast, and who told THR was doing his best to help her during this time. “She’s an adult,” Selby said. “I can’t lock her up in a house and say, ‘Don’t move, don’t even look out the window.’ This isn’t prison.”