Shirley MacLaine says that being a maverick in life was a given.
She was born to the Beatty family of Richmond, Virginia where her father Ira was a professor of psychology, public school administrator and real estate agent. Her mother Kathlyn was a drama teacher who taught both Shirley and her brother, future film superstar Warren Beatty.
As a child, the family moved from Richmond to Arlington, Virginia where she felt a bit repressed.
"I grew up in a rather repressed middle-aged home where you weren't supposed to do what the neighbors didn't like," she says. "I think what happened is it taught me to jump over that fence."
A physical limitation jump-started her show biz career.
"I was born with weak ankles, so my mother took me to an acting class to help my weak spot. I fell in love with music and dancing. When I eventually wanted to get out of the house, the dancing led to a career in music and then acting and writing."
It was a given that she became an actress. "I picked the right profession or it picked me," MacLaine says.
NEVER TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
Always a maverick, she refused to listen during her early days in Hollywood.
"I remember going to the makeup department. They wanted to curl my hair and extend my lips, plus put a lot of mascara on me.
"I said, 'Please no,'" she recalls. "They said, 'That's what you'll have to do to make it in Hollywood.'
"I said, 'Then I'll risk not making it,'" she recalls.
"I don't know what it is about me. I just always know what I want and I don't want," she says. "My belief system is so entrenched. I need to feel centered about it."
She made her film debut in Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" in 1955 before starring in "The Apartment" with Jack Lemmon. Before winning an Academy Award in 1983 for her role in "Terms of Endearment," she was even more famous for being the one female who was allowed to hang out with the Rat Pack.
HANGING OUT WITH THE RAT PACK
What does she remember of those days of hanging out with Frank, Sammy, Dean, etc?
"Oh, the Rat Pack. I'll never forget all the fun we had," she says. "They used to drag me up on the stage, but there wasn't any dragging. I loved it. We'd make jokes and the crowd ate it up.
"They taught me so many things about comedy and live entertaining," she says. "I took my own show to Vegas and I loved playing there, except when I heard the tinkling of the ice in the glasses. That's when you know you're losing the audience."
Why was she the lone female who became "one of the guys?"
"Why was I the one girl who was allowed to hang with the Rat Pack?" she poses. "I'd clean up their crackers and their jelly beans. They also tell me how they trusted me because I never divulged any of their secrets.
"I was like one of the boys," she says.
"Maybe the reason I got to hang out with the Rat Pack was I wasn't sexually attractive to them," she says. "Honestly, I can tell you why they allowed me around them, but I can tell you that whatever the reason, those guys protected me.
"I couldn't have a wing ding whirl of a time if I wanted to in their presence," she says of how the Rat Pack wouldn't allow other guys to hit on her.
SPEAKING HER MIND
They did appreciate how Shirley didn't take any guff—from anyone.
"I told some mob bosses off in front of them. I told a major mob boss to F himself in front of the guys and the entire Rat Pack fell down laughing."
HER SPIRITUAL SIDE
Now, all the new age theories she touted years ago are almost mainstream.
"I think I was ahead of my time," she says. "I have that talent curse.
"I can pretty well look down the road a little bit and feel what's going on. I just put all the pieces together," she says. "Now, it is mainstream, but I didn't say or write those things for any reason other than I believed it myself."
"I can't do anything unless I believe in it."
MacLaine is also writing another book. "I'm in the middle of it now. I like to be alone with my thoughts and jot them down. This is book 13 or 14."
SHIRLEY MACLAINE ON TURNING 78 THIS SPRING
As for turning 78 this spring, she just sighs.
"I'm shocked at that number," she admits, "but luckily I don't feel 78. I feel about 50.
"I do have some wisdom now, but I can't do the full Jane Fonda workout, which is crazy anyways."
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