BWW Interview: Renée Taylor Dishes On Her LIFE ON A DIET

BWW Interview: Renée Taylor Dishes On Her LIFE ON A DIET

Award-winning writer/actress Renée Taylor will be bringing her touring one-woman show RENÉE TAYLOR'S MY LIFE ON A DIET back to her home town at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts April 5, 2019. Known to many television fans of The Nanny as Sylvia Fine, Fran Drescher's TV mom, Renée has collaborated on a multitude of movie and theatrical projects with her late husband Joe Bologna. I had the very lovely chance to get some hilarious answers to my under-other-circumstances, "un-polite" questions.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Renée!

I would never ask a lady questions regarding her weight, but since the title of your show is MY LIFE ON A DIET, do you remember how much you weighed when you made your professional stage debut as "Slave Girl" in a Purim Pageant at Madison Square Garden at age 15?

As I always tell the nurse at my doctor's office, who asks me to get on the scale: "I don't do weight." When I first met my husband, Joe Bologna, the two things I lied about was my age and my weight. I told him I weighed 102, which I might have weighed when I was born. (My mother once said to me, "I was very surprised when you came out of the womb with a bagel in your mouth.")

But that was my first job as an actress. I answered an ad from a newspaper, Leo Shull's SHOW BUSINESS. The ad was looking for "overweight girls" to dance across the stage as slave girls in the Purim Pageant for five dollars, which in those days was a lot of money. And I thought my career was off to a spectacular start.

If cosmic forces allowed, what would you, with all your life experience you've so far accumulated, advise your 15-year-old self, making her stage debut at Madison Square Garden?

That everything happens for the right reason. Don't pay any attention to being hired or fired. Don't take anything too seriously, or personally. As it turns out, it's all a good joke.

Just curious - how did you originally come up with the spelling of your first name, with the accent on the first 'e'?

Because I was named after Renée Adorée, a silent screen star. My mom saw her on the big screen, and named me after her. And that's how she spelled her name. My mother always said, "My daughter will be an actress." She was right.

What did you weigh when you were doing stand-up at the Bon Soir in the 1950s/60s?

Well..., I was always called "pleasingly plump." But I don't hear that expression anymore. Do you?

BWW Interview: Renée Taylor Dishes On Her LIFE ON A DIETDid you have a say in picking your opening acts? Or did Bon Soir owner, Ernie Sgroi Sr., book a yet-to-be-discovered Barbra Streisand as one of your opening acts?

Barbra was already the opening act when I was booked. And I thought she was so much better than me, and even asked Ernie if I could go on before her. But he said no, it was already worked out that way. So, I accepted my fate of closing the show after her.

If you were to perform your Bon Soir stand-up today, would you have to re-work any bit, now considered un-PC?

No, I would do the exact same act. It was always funny. And I was so naïve that I didn't know I was funny, but not that good.

You and Joe co-created a number of projects before. For MY LIFE ON A DIET, have you tweaked the show any since Joe originally put his directorial touch on it? Any changes from your New York premiere last year to this show at The Wallis?

MY LIFE ON A DIET is just one of 22 plays, four films, and nine TV movies and series that Joe and I created together. The show was actually his idea. When The Nanny went off the air, he said, "Why don't we do a one-woman play based on your book?" And I said, "Oh, I don't think people will relate to a show business story about a woman who always worries about her weight." And he said, "You know, that's every woman, and every guy, too. Everybody worries about their image!" The show is still the same one we created together, but, of course, there have been tweaks along the way. Last summer we added some video to the show. There's a clip of me singing on The Perry Como Show, as well as, Joe and I together on The Dinah Shore Show. Plus, the magic of doing live theater is that it changes from show-to-show. With each new audience, there is always a new discovery.

What would you credit your 52 years of marriage to Joe to? Lots of laughing?

LOTS of laughing. And we had pasta three times a week, even when I had a headache. We shared a philosophy: "Bad sex is better than no sex at all." There was always a lot of love and respect, compassion, and forgiveness. We never held a grudge. And the saying from our show "If you ever leave me, I'm going with you," - that came from something that happened right after we were married. After our fight, I told Joe, "Get your things and get out!" So, he started packing. And then, I started packing. And he said, "Where do you think you're going?!" And that's when I said "If you ever leave me, I'm going with you."

If financial compensation was not a factor, which medium of entertainment would you like to perform in (stage, television, film)?

I love the stage because of the immediate feedback from the audience. But when I was doing The Nanny, there was always a lot of feedback from the cast and crew, who always gathered around and watched when Fran and I did a scene together. And, I love the intimacy of movies, because the camera does most of the work in a close-up of your eyes. So I guess you can say my favorite medium is the one that I'm doing at the time.

BWW Interview: Renée Taylor Dishes On Her LIFE ON A DIETLos Angeles is the second stop on your tour. Are you all set for Bellport, NY?

Right now we are two weeks away from Bellport. I have no idea what the audience is going to be like, but I bet they'll be as sharp as the audiences were in Manhattan last summer. Every performance was truly a joyous exchange. I'm excited to have that again. And because I lived in Beverly Hills for 43 years, just a few blocks from the theatre I'm playing at, I hope the folks in L.A. are going to welcome me back as a hometown girl, even though I was born in The Bronx. (By the way, a peak experience in my career; I was just inducted into the Bronx Jewish Museum Hall of Fame).

Congratulations on that honor! What other cities are in the process of adding?

Chicago; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Palm Beach, Florida; and Palm Springs, California; so far.

One last question, if you don't mind? Was a woman's weight and dress size as much of an issue back when you started as it is now?

I don't think the ideas about weight have gotten healthier as the years went by. The weight standards were much realer in the 50s. Now, perpetuated by the fashion and diet industries, it's about pushing size 0s. There was no such size in the 50s! Marilyn Monroe, when I knew her, was a size 12, Brigitte Bardot a 14, and Sophia Loren was a size 16. I feel very lucky that for most of my life, and even now, I've had that same thing in common with Sophia - my dress size.

Thank you again, Renée. I look forward to checking out your DIET!

For ticket availability and show schedule at The Wallis through April 14, 2019; log onto

For other DIET tour cities and dates, log onto

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From This Author Gil Kaan

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