At age 84, veteran actress Cloris Leachman has an Oscar, nine Emmys, a best-selling autobiography and a string of hit TV shows on her resume. Luckily for us, the woman does not possess a filter for her thoughts before they mischieveously sneak out of her mouth.
For two hours Saturday night at the Buckhead Theatre during her one-woman show, “Cloris!,” the “Dancing With the Stars” hoofer discussed her favorite roles, her childhood, life’s tragedies and even played Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” on the piano. All while wearing a comfortable pair of brown slippers beneath a flowing, layered dress she used as a running gag throughout the night.
Glaring at a green plant atop the coffee table on the living room-like stage set up, Leachman cracked: “I asked for a lovely bouquet. That didn’t happen.” As the audience applauded, she hid the offending plant under the furniture.
“I opened the door of opportunity everywhere I saw it,” she told the appreciative audience. Some of topics Leachman covered in the show included: Her favorite scene shot in the first season of her new Fox sitcom “Raising Hope” (“Maw Maw is naked from the waist up, breast feeding her granddaughter and saying ‘Ow, no biting!'”), creating the classic character of Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks‘ “Young Frankenstein” (“I wanted to create a character you would never forget. Mel’s mother actually helped me on set to get the German accent right. To this day, if I’m making my way to a table in a restaurant I’ll hear someone whinny like a horse!”), on her coffee pot-heaving climatic scene in “The Last Picture Show” (“We printed the first take even though I wanted to do the beginning of the scene again. Peter [Bogdanovich] said ‘No. You’re going to win the Oscar for that scene.’ And I did!”) and her stint on “Dancing With the Stars” (“Terror is the first word that comes to mind.”).
When discussing another terrifying moment in her career, she requested that a gum-chewing, cocktail-toting audience member named Kevin join her atop the coffee table to hold her hand. After making him deposit his gum into her hand, Leachman tucked it under the coffee table as she recounted the story of playing opposite Katharine Hepburn on Broadway in “As You Like It.” Leachman recalled the night she was primping in her dressing room and missed her entrance in the second act.
“Can you imagine leaving Katharine Hepburn on stage all alone to create Shakespearean adlibs?!,” Leachman shuddered. At the end of the scene, Hepburn marched up to her backstage and uttered just three words to her: “You goddamned pig!” Returning Kevin’s gum to him, Leachman advised: “Put that on eBay.”
While a pre-recorded announcement instructed the audience against the use of flash photography, Leachman routinely stopped the show and urged camera users to approach the stage to get better photos. After Bram Majtlis‘ iPhone 4 camera’s flash went off accidentally from the eighth row, Leachman waited for him to arrive at the edge of the stage and posed for him. After the show, Majtlis posted the image (at right) on Facebook.
Leachman’s 1971 Oscar speech (replayed, along with other clips, on a screen overhead Saturday night) could also serve as her career mantra: “I’m having an amazing life and it isn’t over yet!”