When I arrived at Cat Greenleaf’s Cobble Hill brownstone this morning, she offered me some “Brooklyn seltzer,” which she proceeded to pour into a small cup from an old-fashioned bottle. Greenleaf has made a lot of her Brooklyn residency. Her red door near the corner of Wyckoff and Court Streets is the backdrop for her NBC New York show Talk Stoop, in which she conducts casual conversation with celebrities while, of course, sitting on the stoop. We took to that same stoop, alongside Greenleaf’s English bulldog, Gracie, to discuss her latest Brooklyn honor: She is this weekend’s Mermaid Parade’s Queen Mermaid. As we chatted, sometimes pausing to talk with passersby, conversation turned to matters like her show, her neighborhood, and Taxi TV — she’s fine if you turn it off.
Do a lot of people ask to interview you on your stoop?
Yeah. It’s the first choice. Listen, the commute is great for me. I love being home, so if people want to do an interview at my own home, great. I am in.
So, you’re the Queen Mermaid this year!
Can you believe it?
How did that come about?
My cell phone rang one morning at work and it was [Brooklyn Borough President] Marty Markowitz. He’s been on the show and I know him from a million events, and I love him and think he has the best job in the world, but I didn’t know how he had my cell phone number. He asked if I was in town on the 18th. I said in fact I was. And he said, well, I want you to be Queen of the Mermaid Parade.
Before he could even finish I said, “Yes!” He said, “It’s so Brooklyn and you’re so Brooklyn” and that, coming from Marty Markowitz, who is Brooklyn, I mean, the honor is beyond. My mom, who is in the back, grew up in Manhattan Beach/Brighton Beach, and my grandfather and great-grandfather were builders, and they built buildings and homes that are still there. So it’s a really huge honor for me.
What are your duties as Mermaid Queen?
As far as I know I only have two duties. One is to wear this crazy crown, and the second is to ride in a cart. That’s it. That’s all I know. I’m bringing my family and a few friends to roll with me.
What do you wear other than a crown? Because people get kind of wild.
I know. I have a very low-cut blue mermaid-ian type dress. I’m not wearing coconut boobs or anything. My niece, who is riding with us, who is 20, has been hard at work trying to find herself some sort of a crazy, scantily clad outfit. You know, I’m a mom now. I just can’t be doing that.
How does it feel to be one of those “New York personalities”?
It’s a huge honor. I am so passionately and lustily in love with this city. I’m from Westchester, New York, and we moved to California when I was in seventh grade. I always knew I’d be back in New York. Nothing felt real unless it happened in New York. I made it back by the age of 28, and immediately I just felt right, and everything did feel real.
I don’t ever stop and think, “Wow, I’m somebody people know.” My mind doesn’t go there. But when I hear you say it I feel absolutely humbled, because I do believe this is the most magical city on Earth. To be a part of it is mind-blowing. I love my job and I love everyone I get to talk to. Do you know what’s a nice byproduct of Talk Stoop? Besides people I get to talk to on the stoop, because the show is now recognizable, a lot more people talk to me on the street. Not just celebrities, but people I meet on the subway who have seen the show and strike up a conversation. It’s cool because they wouldn’t talk to me otherwise.
I have to ask a couple of questions about Taxi TV. When you get in a taxi, if you get in a taxi —
Yeah, I don’t ride taxis. I’m cheap. I’m a Brooklyn Jew. Are you kidding? I take the F train. It’s around the corner.
The follow-up question was going to be, if you rode taxis: Do you keep it on or turn it off?
I can tell you I’ve taken probably five cabs in the last year max. If I get in an ABC cab I’ll keep it on for a minute to see what the competition is doing. If I get in an NBC cab, I’ll keep it on with the volume down. This is how cheap I am; for me it’s very glamorous to ride in a cab. So I like to put my nose up against the glass and look at the city. I’d prefer to do that. However, if I get to see my dogs and my house and relive a fun moment while I’m in there, that’s cool too.
Back to the Mermaid Parade. Have you practiced your wave?
I have actually. What I’m doing is I’m curving my hand a little bit inward like an Italian princess. What do you think?
I like it.
Do you? I tried to practice it. My son is riding with me and my husband and my niece. They all have also worked this out a little bit.
So it’s not the British —
It’s a come hither. More of an Italian “ciao” than it is a British thing.
Talk Stoop airs on NBC’s New York Nonstop.