Betty White is lovely, talented and charming, but for sheer substance, chutzpah and staying power, I’m giving my “Kick-Butt Babe Award” to the brilliance that is Cloris Leachman. Here’s why:
- In 1962, on one night, she was a guest star on three different LIVE television shows. Top that, Tina Fey!
- She dares to bare, with style. In an homage to (or parody of) Demi Moore’s naked pregnant Vanity Fair cover, Cloris Leachman posed nude, painted with images of fruit, for Alternative Medicine Digest in 1997.
- She’s a former beauty queen (Miss Chicago, 1946), yet enthusiastically embraces opportunities to take roles that are comically unglamorous. Which is probably why Mel Brooks tapped her for the evil Nurse Diesel (“Those who are tardy don’t get fruit cup!”) in High Anxiety and the mysterious Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein.
- Although when cast as landlady Phyllis Lindstrom in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cloris Leachman had more acting experience than Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper put together, but never hogged the spotlight.
- In addition to her Oscar and nine Emmys (more than any other television actor), this seasoned Broadway pro also sings.
- While other actresses complain about quality roles for older women, Cloris Leachman has never lacked for work. She has been working pretty much steadily since high school, and she’s now in her mid-eighties. What other actor has had this much staying power?
- In her own words, she’s one firecracker of a dancer. (She made it to the sixth round of Dancing With The Stars in 2008, partnered with pro Corky Ballas.)
- In addition to the regular role of Jenga-master, randomly-demented Maw Maw in the new sitcom, Raising Hope, she currently has four movie projects in various stages of production, and is starring in a one-woman show about her amazing body of work.
- Who else do you know that’s been on Lassie, Joan of Arcadia, Two and a Half Men, AND kissed Ronald Reagan? (Besides Margaret Thatcher.)
- Like Lady Gaga, she’s worn garments made from food. Cabbage, to be more precise, for a 2009 PETA ad. The dress is rather elegant, but I don’t believe she’d be able to do a jive in it.
- Bonus reason! She gives good interview… while wearing her fuzzy bedroom slippers.