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A Lifetime of Dieting

Jennifer Pfaff

   Renee Taylor has always been on a diet.

   And not just any diet, but those from Hollywood: Marilyn Monroe loved grapes, Joan Crawford was told to eat raisins for iron deficiency and Grace Kelly drank lots of water after eating yogurt—so Taylor mimicked each, and others.

   “I was obsessed with: What did they eat? As if that was why they were so beautiful,” she says. “I went on everybody’s diet.”

   The actress, best known for her role as Sylvia Fine on the ’90s sitcom The Nanny, cowrote with her director husband Joe Bologna My Life On A Diet, a one-person humorous play that recounts her eating habits over the years. The show, which comes to the Plaza Theatre from January 16 to February 4, is based on true anecdotes—some funny, some not—from Taylor’s career and personal life. “That’s how I remember my life—what I was eating, what diet I was on—ever since I was a little girl and I had a weight problem,” she says.

   Just how many diets has Taylor tried? “Thousands,” she says.

   Among the interesting ones is the Champagne diet, which requires dieters to consume two glasses of Champagne with each meal, Taylor says. “They said that cheap Champagne had more calories, so I had to drink Cristal,” she says. “So I became a $300-a-day drunk on that diet.”

   There was also the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet and more—and they all worked, she says. “It’s what happen when you lose the weight,” she says.

   Her guilty pleasure: carbs. “Once I have spaghetti, I can’t stop,” she says. “When I was pregnant, I had spaghetti three times a day. I kept saying, ‘It’s going to be a very big baby,’ and I was very embarrassed when my son was born and he only weighed five pounds.”

   Acting on The Nanny didn’t help Taylor’s eating habits, she admits.

   “When I first started, I didn’t have many lines. I was just eating off everybody’s plate, and the writers liked it so much, they wrote it into the script,” she says. “I have all these scenes in the show of me eating off everybody’s plate. I remember once when I was so upset, I said, ‘Get me my medicine,’ and [someone] brought me Hershey’s chocolate syrup. And that relaxed me.”

   These days, the self-described food addict (“I’m a food tramp—somebody who eats around,” she jokes) tries not to obsess over food and to eat moderately. She has an apple for breakfast, an apple for lunch and whatever she wants for dinner. “That’s what I call maintaining,” she says.

   By the end of My Life On A Diet, audiences learn the underlying message: Food is a substitute for something deeper. In Taylor’s case, she was hungry for money, fame and love, she says. She did find all three—especially love. She and Bologna will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in August and honor it as they have each year: by renewing their vows in a different religion. They’ve been blessed by the pope, siddha yoga founder Swami Muktananda and the Dalai Lama.

   Her life may still be on a diet, but Taylor is wiser when it comes to cravings.

   “If you’re heavy, it’s okay. You just have to feel your feelings. That’s really what people are hungry for,” Taylor says. (561-588-1820)

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