Bawdy, sensitive and entirely unbound, Lainie Kazan is one of those rare “wait a minute” celebrities.
As in “wait a minute… I know that face…what’s her name again?”
Since she appeared on the scene 30 years ago, Kazan has strutted her stuff on film (playing Bette Midler‘s mom in “Beaches” and opposite Divine in “Lust in the Dust“), on stage and in nightclubs, capturing great notices and very few headlines.
This year may prove to be the turning point: She is drawing rave reviews for her comic turn in the film “29th Street,” has just finished making another movie (“Honeymoon in Vegas,” due next year), and is touring in a one-woman cabaret act.
Q. A lot of people call you Hollywood‘s best kept secret. How do you feel about that?
A. (Laughs) I think it’s a tragedy! They mightÂ be right â€” I don’t know how great I am, but I
think I am good at my craft. A lot of people lostÂ sight of who I really am and what I’m about as aÂ total woman. A lot of people don’t even rememberÂ that I sing.
Q. What song sums you up as a woman?
A. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,Â of course.
Q. Have you ever had any experiences with theÂ casting couch?
A. All the time. I began my career when thatÂ was the norm. If you weren’t harassed, it was anÂ insult! I was an attractive young woman, and I’dÂ come in to read for a pact, and the next thing IÂ know I was being asked out for dinner. I never gotÂ the parts, you know, but I did get a lot of dinners.Â Back then, you couldn’t press charges. Oh no,Â darling, that was never done. You’d go on the dinnersÂ and think to yourself throughout the meal,Â “Now how do I charm this man and still get theÂ part? And is my blouse cut low enough?” DuringÂ dessert, you’ri he nrporruniPd with thinking howÂ you were going to get out of the car and race toÂ your front door without the pervert It was a realÂ problem for me for many years.
Q. Now what do you do?
A. Well now, if they want my body, they justÂ have to ask.
Q. What do you think about Hollywood’s preoccupationÂ with youth?
A. I’ve kind of ignored it. I keep healthy. I doÂ yoga. I’m the most limber woman you’ll ever meet. And I eat well. But I have my moments when I binge out.
Q. What’s your favorite binge?
A. Well, after I sang last night, I went crazy. I ate my way through the house. I started with peanut butter on rice cakes. Then the cream cheese looked really good, so I had some of that. I spread that on some crackers. Then I thought, “Oh, olives!” So I smothered on some olives. And then I had tuna fish. And cheese, and coffee and fruit juice and Diet Coke. I went berserk!
Q. If Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler were teetering on the edge of a cliff, and you could save only one, who would it be?
A. (Laughs long and loud) Guess!
Q. I don’t know.
A. I’d save my friend of course.
A. You said it, not me. Actually, I worked with Barbra. I was her understudy on “Funny Girl.”
Q. How was Barbra back then?
A. Well … (Pause) we were both young and foolish.
Q. She was a holy terror, wasn’t she?
A. We all were