Like a fine wine, Cloris Leachman seems to get better with age. She has won eight Primetime Emmy awards and one of her first movies The Last Picture Show snagged her an Academy Award in 1971. She followed that with several successful Mel Brooks' movies and no one can forget her longest running role, in the Mary Tyler Moore show. She hopes to continue her success currently with Fox's Raising Hope. She spoke about the show along with how she took the bad with the Facts of Life recently.
Windy City Times: Hello, Cloris.
Cloris Leachman: Hi. Why are you calling me?
Windy City Times: [Laughs] I wanted to talk to you about your show Raising Hope.
Cloris Leachman: Oh, all right.
Windy City Times: I spoke recently with Martha Plimpton and told her I was going to track you down.
Cloris Leachman: What did she say?
Windy City Times: She said you are "fabulous and crazy." [Cloris laughs.] How is the Fox hit going?
Cloris Leachman: Well, we are not doing it right now until next August.
Windy City Times: Is there something you have been asked to do that you wouldn't do?
Cloris Leachman: Not yet, but it's getting close. They had me sitting on the toilet with the grandfather washing the sink and saying that I better hurry up that, Virginia is coming in. I said, "It takes as long as it takes." [Both laugh.] The maddest I have gotten is when they all play hide and go seek. Of course they are not, but I think they are and I am hiding in the living room under a great big lampshade. Nobody notices. Later I am behind the broom cupboard then I finally come out and say, "They don't know how to play it. I am going to bed!" Nobody knows I am playing it!
Windy City Times: How was your recent Facts of Life reunion for the TV Land Awards?
Cloris Leachman: I can't tell you the truth because it is so disgusting. There was such a rude moment that I don't know what to do about it.
Windy City Times: What happened?
Cloris Leachman: Charlotte Rae's nose was running and she said she was so nervous. I was standing right next to her. She's about two feet shorter than I am and not even five feet tall right now. Anyway, I looked down and I saw this one drop of clear mucous hanging from her nose. So I reached over and wiped it off. Her face was terrible and she hissed, "Don't be pushy!" I wanted to say, "Fuck you, you bitch!" I mean, what the hell?
Windy City Times: That's weird.
Cloris Leachman: I wouldn't put my finger on anyone else's nose, would you?
Windy City Times: No!
Cloris Leachman: I hardly would call that being pushy and what the fuck? She was the one saying, "Oh my God! Somebody do something, hurry!" No one had a Kleenex and you are not going to use your costume, so then what?
Windy City Times: I talked to Geri Jewell recently and she was a sweetheart.
Cloris Leachman: She was in the first year or two of Facts of Life, right?
Windy City Times: Yes, she wasn't on your season.
Cloris Leachman: She is very darling. I liked her that night.
Windy City Times: You are a big animal lover, correct?
Cloris Leachman: Hell, yes! I am a vegetarian. I was born and raised in Des Moines. I've always been proud to be a Midwesterner. In Iowa they are trying to pass a bill to make it illegal to photograph farm animal without getting permission from the farmer. I want better treatment of animals not the criminalization of those trying to expose illegal cruelty.
Windy City Times: You have a history with Chicago, I noticed. You went to Northwestern.
Cloris Leachman: Yes I did.
Windy City Times: You were Miss Chicago in 1946?
Cloris Leachman: Yes, someone entered my picture for Miss WGN. I found a telegram waiting for me when I got home late one night saying that I had to appear the next day at 7:30 in my bathing suit and evening gown. I needed to bring talent, it said. I wasn't going to go down there. I am not a beauty contender! I was laughing my ass off.
This guy called me and said he had entered my picture and would take me there. Him and the housemother, where I was renting an attic for seven dollars a week while I was working in Chicago that summer, talked me into going. I finally said, "What do you want me to do?" I had already sang, danced and done a reading. They said, "Take your hair down." I took one pin out and my hair beautifully fell around my shoulders, I hadn't even washed it or anything. They said, "Congratulations, you are Miss WGN." Everyone was taking pictures and all excited and then asked me what would do if I were Miss Chicago. This was a Tuesday and they wanted me to try out for Miss Chicago on that Friday.
Windy City Times: That was so fast.
Cloris Leachman: Oh my God! So I took a piano lesson, bought a new bathing suit and I went to the audition. They showed us how to walk the figure eight and went to dinner. I stayed behind and walked it about 150 times by myself. That night they couldn't decide about the final three of us. They had us each say something. The first one was completely tongue tied, the second one lisped and then it was my turn. I am not even from Chicago first of all, I should have been a state because everyone else was but me. I was city. They already had a Miss Illinois and a Miss Iowa, because I am from Iowa. However, my grandmother always said, "You get in there and bring home the bacon!" Next thing I know they are congratulating me for being Miss Chicago!
Windy City Times: So that's how you got to be Miss Chicago…
Cloris Leachman: Then they sent me on to a Miss America contest. By that time I called my mother and told her to get there. It was getting kind of serious. They paraded me around Soldier Stadium sitting on the back of a convertible in the cold night with my bathing suit on.
Windy City Times: Oh, no!
Cloris Leachman: We got on a plane and flew to Atlantic City. Mom and I just trembled and laughed most of the time.
Windy City Times: We want you back in Chicago. You better come visit.
Cloris Leachman: Well, someone has to invite me.
Windy City Times: You are always invited.
Cloris Leachman: I don't go anywhere unless they feed me.
Windy City Times: We need to throw a party for you, then.
Cloris Leachman: That is how to do it, exactly. You figure it out and I will be there.
Windy City Times: What would you want to drink at the party?
Cloris Leachman: If it is in the morning then it's a Bloody Mary with half the ice, half the spice and half the liquor. At night, it's a margarita with no sweet and sour, fresh lemons and just a splash ofnot Grand Marnierwhat do people put a splash of?
Windy City Times: Cointreau.
Cloris Leachman: Cointreau, yes!
Windy City Times: I love a good margarita. You have a new movie with Tara Reid called The Fields.
Cloris Leachman: I hope it's coming out soon but I don't know if they quite made a deal yet.
Windy City Times: Is it a scary movie?
Cloris Leachman: It is a little scary, yeah. It's a psychological thriller, supposedly.
Windy City Times: I will have to look for that.
Cloris Leachman: I loved my part in it.
Windy City Times: You have a book entitled Cloris: My Autobiography.
Cloris Leachman: I didn't write one word of it. I just lived it. My former husband wrote it. I didn't read it until it was already published.
Windy City Times: Did you ever think you would ever have such a long career?
Cloris Leachman: Yes, I did always.
Windy City Times: Would you ever retire and stop working?
Cloris Leachman: No, they are going to have to take a lead pipe and beat me over the head with it to get me to stop.
Cloris Leachman just celebrated her 83rd birthday and has a new music album that can be found soon on www.cloris.com . Follow her on Fox at www.fox.com/raisinghope. In addition, Leachman will appear Saturday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Dorothy Menker Theater at Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 W. College Parkway; tickets go on sale in mid-August at www.morainevalley.edu .