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Cloris Leachman's Latest Chapter

The author, actress, and dancer talks about aging, cooking, her new book -- and why she never gets stressed out.
WebMD the Magazine - Feature

The winner of nine Emmy Awards and one Academy Award, actress and comedienne Cloris Leachman has charmed American audiences for more than 60 years. This past year, she pushed her creative powers even further when she both competed as the oldest contestant on Dancing with the Stars and published her autobiography: Cloris. When WebMD Magazine caught up with her in the spring of 2009, she had just finished a film role, too. How does an 82-year-old find the time and energy to do all that? Read on to find out.

You seem to be going stronger than ever at 82. Not only are you starring in Quentin Tarantino’s new film Inglourious Basterds, but you just penned your autobiography, Cloris, and danced with the stars last year. Is it true that Dancing with the Stars producers rejected you twice before they let you on the show?

They said I was too old. But when my son became my manager, he asked me what I wanted to do and I told him Dancing with the Stars. He arranged a talk with them, and after seeing five or six doctors and spending three hours with a dance instructor in front of the cameras, they said OK.

Was it difficult for you physically?

I had gained weight and it was shockingly surprising how that was such an issue. I could not imagine hopping even one hop. I also had a bad left knee and high blood pressure. But they put a shot of steroids in my knee, and they took my blood pressure at the beginning of every rehearsal. I could not do anything if my blood pressure went above 140/80. I’d have to sit and wait it out until it went down.

You are famously funny. How do you think your sense of humor has influenced your point of view on life’s ups and downs?

Oh, thank God for a sense of humor. I’m not witty or anything. Mostly, I’m just silly. But I have a lot of fun in life. 

How do you relieve stress?

I do not get stressed. People get stressed by the most amazing things. Breathing is crucial. Just slow breathing.

How about exercise?

I have some weights, if only I would use them. I am a bucket of noodles right now. But I am going to do it.

Obviously, the dancing helped get you in shape.

It did, but I have to keep it up. I’m going to have Corky [Ballas, her DWTS partner] meet me in Des Moines, I think. I’m going to do a one-woman show and I am going to put him in it. So, I guess it will be a one woman with a man show!

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