The indomitable Cloris Leachman on acting, gay marriage and her March 19 Atlanta show

Still a star at 84

Cloris Leachman is having a career renaissance that no one could have ever predicted — at the ripe age of 84. Long a supporter of LGBT rights, the inimitable Leachman brings her comic flair to the Buckhead Theatre March 19 for “Cloris! A One Woman Show.”

These days, Leachman is as popular as she’s ever been, tapping into a new generation of audiences. She was on the seventh season of “Dancing With the Stars” back in 2008, paired with Corky Ballas. At the time, she was 82 and the oldest dancer ever on the TV series. She lasted midway through the competition with dances that drove the show’s judges insane and became YouTube sensations. The experience was wonderful, she says.

“I laughed so much doing it,” Leachman says. “I thought I’d last about five weeks and I lasted six.”

She promises “fun and happiness” in her Atlanta show. She will also tell some stories of her life in Hollywood. The show is relatively new since her schedule has been so busy of late. Besides “Dancing With the Stars,” she’s also on the acclaimed new comedy “Raising Hope” with Martha Plimpton.

Coming back to TV on a regular basis was a no-brainer for her.

“I adore the show,” she says. “It’s outrageous, funny and delightful. The cast is so good. Martha holds the show together.”

Besides being the grand marshal for the 2009 New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade, she also served as a grand marshal for the San Francisco Pride Parade back in 2009, where thousands of fans greeted her. She doesn’t remember many specifics of the day, but admits she had a great time and loved the fan support.
Opposition to gay marriage makes her mad.

“It’s appalling to me that in 19 —oh lord, it’s 2011, that we are discussing whether or not there should be gay marriage,” she says. “How dare anyone, in this day and age, debate this and tell us who we marry. It’s wrong.”

The actress has long been aware she has gay fans.

“I think it’s because I give it my all, always 100 percent,” she says.

She also credits her longevity and body of work. Before her recent TV successes, she was a vital part of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” considered one of the great series of all time, and then later had her own spinoff series “Phyllis.” She’s also been seen in “The Facts of Life” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” The actress still holds the record for most Primetime Emmy Awards – she has eight.

In addition, she was featured in three Mel Brooks’ films – most notably in “Young Frankenstein” as Frau Blücher. She won an Oscar back in 1971 for her role in the film “The Last Picture Show.” She watched the Academy Awards a few weeks back and enjoyed it, although she acknowledges that a lot of viewers did not like the pairing of James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

Leachman will be seen later this year in the suspense thriller “The Fields” with Tara Reid.

Her secret to a lengthy life and career is a surprising one: eating well.

“I made the decision when I was little that I wanted to be healthy,” she says. “I have been a vegetarian since I was 35 and I’m now almost 85. I love to eat, and I do it well. I eat better than anyone I know. No one likes food like I do. It’s a hobby of mine.”

She is looking forward to eating out during her visit to Atlanta, a city she says she loves. She can’t remember what restaurants she has enjoyed in the past so she is looking forward to trying new ones.

She also laughs a lot, which she says has been good for her. Her family – both her five children and five grandchildren – keep her constantly smiling.

“They all make me laugh until I’m sick,” she admits.

“Cloris! A One Woman Show”
Saturday, March 19, 8 p.m.
Buckhead Theatre
3110 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA 30305