The Daily Beast: Cloris Leachman Is America’s Dirtiest Dancer – 1

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America's Dirtiest Dancer America’s Dirtiest Dancer
March 2009
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Cloris Leachman could fill a memoir with tales of seducing men half her age, watching Marilyn grind with Robert Kennedy and her “epic” attraction to Gene Hackman. So that’s just what she did.

Cloris Leachman was an overweight octogenarian who wanted to compete on the endurance-testing reality show, Dancing With the Stars. “They said I was too old. They’re denying it now, so I don’t know what to think,” she says. “Maybe they just didn’t like me?”

If that’s the case, audiences disagreed—Leachman argued her way onto the show and became an instant fan favorite, foxtrotting with retired pro Corky Ballas and cracking wise for the cameras. It’s a pretty good representation of how her career, now in its sixth decade, has been progressing. At an age when most actresses are settling into occasional cameos and swan-song performances, Leachman is only accelerating. She was nominated for an Emmy each and every one of the six years she played scary Slavic Grandma Ida on Malcolm in the Middle earlier this decade. And in February, fresh from the hot tub and clad only in a bathrobe, the 82-year-old Leachman shared a much-hyped makeout scene with Jack Black, 43 years her junior, on The Office. He “couldn’t be darling-er,” she purrs about Black.

Now the Oscar-winning star of 1971’s The Last Picture Show has a memoir, Cloris. In it, she shares the details of her storied life: helping next-door neighbor Judy Garland climb out of the depths of her depression, watching Marilyn Monroe grind on a dance floor with Bobby Kennedy, and having sex with Gene Hackman—“Some giant space magnet was pulling us together. It was epic,” she recalls fondly. Leachman spoke to The Daily Beast about rehearsing her kiss with Jack Black, working with Val Kilmer and Quentin Tarantino, and why she was happy when her time on Dancing With the Stars finally ended.

You’re not showing any signs of winding down your career. Why write an autobiography now?

It was kind of a lifetime decision, almost now-or-never. I was looking at my life and thinking, what should I do next? And my former husband, [producer and director] George Englund, was talking with my son and manager, George Jr., and they decided I should do a one-woman show and write a book. So we’ve done both of them.

In the book, you reveal some intimate experiences with other bold-faced names, like your brief affair with Gene Hackman, or when you talked your neighbor Judy Garland down from her severe depression. Was it hard to decide where to draw the line on what you’d share?

I didn’t want to be salacious, but these were my experiences. People are people after all, whether you’re a plumber or a movie star. We’re just human beings. Whether it was Judy, Marilyn, Marlon, or Gene, these were just people in my life, and I cared about them. They’re not movie stars to me, they’re human beings.

You stole the show on Dancing With the Stars last season. You say they rejected you twice before accepting you?

Yeah, but I just kept pushing. They said I was too old. They’re denying it now, so I don’t know what to think. Maybe they just didn’t like me? But we worked it out. In the end, we had arranged a meeting, there was about six of us. We had a wonderful time, laughing. And I was cursing a lot through it. I don’t know if it scared them, but I wanted to be funny. At the end, I said, “I’m not leaving until everybody curses.” And we went around the circle and everybody cursed until we got to one woman and she just couldn’t do it! She couldn’t say it.

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