“My Life on a Diet” For-Reals and Other Goodies with ‘the’ Renée Taylor

By Ernest Kearney  —  Watching Renée Taylor’s one-woman show, My Life on a Diet, is akin to sitting on a veranda with the Statue of Liberty, after the two of you have knocked back a couple of bottles of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay and then settled in as that copper babe dishes the reality to you –

 

Oh yes, Freddy Bartholdi told everybody I was based on his dear mother.  “Mother,” my Aunt Gertie’s bloomers!  He based me on this hooker he met in Anus….  What, that’s the name of the town, Anus, France on the outskirts of Burgundy.  But, in Freddy’s defense, she was a very nurturing hooker.

 

Renée Taylor has just about the same stature as that statue, but much better stories.

 

If you don’t know who Renée Taylor is, then you probably spend far too much time tweeting.   Taylor was a regular on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr * writer's hand  *, Jerry Lewis—especially—wrote her into his film The Errand Boy (1961), she appeared as Eva Braun in Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1968), she and her husband, the late great Joseph Bologna, wrote the Broadway hit Lovers and Other Strangers (1968), and they were nominated for an Academy Award for the 1970 film adaptation of said play.  They starred in the film Made for Each Other (1971) which they also co-wrote in addition to two other screenplays and 22 plays.  My Life on a Diet being one of those 22, which Bologna originally directed as well.

They were both actors. Bologna is best remembered for his brilliant send-up of Sid Caesar in the Peter O’Toole 1982 comedy My Favorite Year. Taylor is probably best known for playing Sylvia Fine, Fran Drescher’s mother on the TV series The Nanny.

She has known, worked with, studied alongside of, or taken diet advice from everyone from Grace Kelly to Orson Welles to Marilyn Monroe.  Performing her comedy show in Village nightclubs, a young unknown singer by the name of Barbra Streisand opened for her.

So what you get in My Life on a Diet, is a history of the Actors Studio,  Broadway in the 1950s, the first days of television, a romance (her and Bologna were married 52 years until his passing in 2017) and the story of her life all with a wealth of her touching and witty reflections, photos and clips from her career.

She kicks off the show sharing pictures of herself from birth, March 19, 1933, and throughout the decades.  Remarking about the last one,

This is me in my 80s, but I can play older.

There are tons of laffs on stage at the Wallis.

Tons.

And a hell of a lot of diets that she’s picked up over the years:

 

The Lou Costello Protein Diet

18 Meatballs a day.

 

The Aunt Mitzi’s Whitefish and Papaya Diet

Breakfast: Whitefish

Lunch: Papaya

Dinner: Whitefish and Papaya

 

The Sicilian Nun Spiritual Air Diet

No food

No water

Breathing through your nose

 

Weight, putting it on, taking it off, has plagued Taylor all her life.

I’m a diet tramp,”

she admits,

that means I eat around.”

She talks a lot about food.  And old friends.

And eating with old friends.

Taylor’s delivery is smooth and seductive, it’s like she was talking to an intimate group of 200 friends at the winding down of a great party.  Her tales can also be bittersweet, such as when she speaks about her lifelong friendship with Monroe who she met while studying under Lee Strasberg.

One remembrance involves Monroe revealing to Taylor how she kept her skin in such great condition – hot baths after coating herself in Vaseline.  Taylor vows to follow the same regime until she becomes just like Marilyn. The great “sex symbol” soon to die from an overdose, responds, “Well, Sweetie, when you become me, tell me what it’s like.”

 

Now on a nationwide tour, My Live on a Diet, recently closed a highly praised, limited run at the Wallis Annenberg  Center for the Performing Arts. You can check in for more chances to partake of this gem to see a classic and classy performance by a classic and classy lady in a show that will touch your heart and tickle your funny bone throughout.

Just don’t see it on an empty stomach.

Click HERE for complete show information and updates.

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* writer's hand  * No I don’t mean Jay Leno.  Google him.

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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