A Wild 47-Year-Old Interview with 94-Year-Old Cloris Leachman

Cloris Leachman — who turns 94 today, April 30 — has many accomplishments on her résumé, including eight Emmy wins, a Daytime Emmy win and, of course, an Oscar for Last Picture Show (1971).

She has worked steadily for at least 73 years, and has four films currently in post-production.

But one thing often forgotten as an accomplishment: She was the celebrity interview in the first-ever issue of Playgirl in June 1973.

What would Phyllis Lindstrom say?!

In the interview, to which Leachman wore "macrame-belted hip-huggers," kicks things off with this one-act play waiting to be written:

"Analysis? Sure, I had a little Freud for two years in New York when I was in my twenties. Ten dollars an hour! When I left, the psychiatrist said I'd used it like a confessional. I said, 'What the hell was I supposed to do?' But then Freud was a Victorian ... so much of his theory is distorted. Penis envy. The whole thing. Kinsey, too. They were both old-fashioned. Screw the Sacred Cow syndrome. But I learned lots about myself. I once had a dream that traffic was backed up clear to 42nd and 5th Avenue. Then I realized I was constipated."

The wide-ranging interview, conducted the magazine's EIC Marin Scott Milam — who picks about Leachman's appearance by stating, "She's not beautiful ... Rather she's handsome ... the eyes, too small perhaps — contains so many fascinating Leachmanisms!

I love her take on being called middle-aged:

"I resist and resent labeling of any kind. It's like putting a lid on something, boxing it up, and the life leaves. I'm 46 years old, but it's relative. Age is a state of mind. Middle age. I detest the designation. Just think what it means: After you're born and before you die. Talk about putting a lid on something. It's the lid on the box. I don't believe in life after death, but I also don't believe in boxing anything. A crossroads? Ridiculous."

On becoming an actress:

"You say 'actress' and it means different things to different people. To most, 'actress' equals 'free,' equals 'loose,' equals 'low morals.' Right? An actress is selfish, egocentric, boring, inasmuch as she's all she'll talk about, except for expounding on subjects she knows nothing about. She's totally unreal, irresponsible. Isn't that about it? And to be perfectly truthful, it was this assumed madness that appealed to me before I became an actress. I thought to myself, 'I can escape the narrow thinking, the closed minds, the gray people,' I call them. Have we started the interview?"

On racial issues:

"Should you have an affair with a black person just because you never have? Yeah, why not? I think you should do everything you've never done before, maybe once, maybe twice, because then you might have something to say on the subject. We've got to stop being afraid of everything."

Discussing her separation from George Englund, Leachman launches into this:

"I've invented a charming number called the Shit House Game. I know I could have called it the Out House Game ... but I meant to call it the Shit House Game for whatever shock value it has. The way it's played, the offensive member of the team is in the shit house with his — and, of course, I say his categorically — pants down around his ankles. It's cold and he can't go and he's frustrated and there are flies and it's smelly. Now, it's an awful situation to be in so the person wants company. Naturally, you can't ask just anyone off the street, so you turn to someone close ... she's the defensive member, and he has to watch out because the object of the game is to get her shit house kit inside. The kit consists of a roll of toilet paper, a fly swatter, and a 75-year-old Sears and Roebuck catalogue, because it's all old news anyway. Now, if the offensive member can lure in the defense, he wins, but they also both lose. You understand?"

Um, no. Do you???

On feminism — "the most profound movement in my memory" — and art:

"The other night, I had to be on a panel at UCLA. It was a series on sensuality. They stuck me into 'Women in the Arts.' Strangely enough, it was mostly art by lesbians depicting lesbian situations. There were other things, too, like a lithograph showing a woman having her period, literally, legs apart, pubic hair, the Tampax coming out. Shocking! Of course it was! But let me tell you, it was not disgusting. In fact, I'm glad for it. We all know everyone goes to the bathroom. We all know women have a menstrual cycle. We all know people fornicate."

And who can not love her for this:

"Do you understand women who kill or brutalize their children? I do."

I mean, that's Cloris Leachman.

2 Responses

  1. Wow, I’m 46 now. She sounds so much wiser than I do at the same age lol. Love her.

  2. She’s an icon and I am sorry to see that so often she gets blown off by arrivistes who know damn little about her 75 YEAR CAREER. Aside from being a dream wild-mature-woman date, she has been there, done that and may have ever been the first to do so many times. But people are so quick to label an actress with her characters, many people think that of Ms. Leachman. Not true for the former Miss Chicago. Yes, she was a “bathing beauty” who played the mother (Hippolyta) of a superhero/bathing beauty (Lynda Carter/Wonder Woman). Among a ton oof other things. Look it up. Also, ask her if we can date…

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